EVERETT, Wash. (AP) — After nearly two years of flight tests and analysis, the Federal Aviation Administration on Friday cleared the way for the new Boeing 787 to take its first commercial flight.
Boeing plans to deliver the first 787 to Japan's All Nippon Airways next month — more than three years later than initially planned. The airline plans to fly it for the first time as a charter on Oct. 26 and begin regular service Nov. 1.
Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Jim Albaugh said customers would find the plane worth the wait, The Seattle Times reported (http://bit.ly/qtTCuD).
"Despite the fact that this airplane might be a little late, this will be an airplane that changes the game," Albaugh said at a ceremony in Everett.
Both the FAA and European regulators certified the plane for flight. Boeing completed flight tests on the 787 this month.
Various production problems were blamed for the delay. The Chicago airline maker has orders from 55 customers for more than 800 of the planes. They will cost $185.2 million to $218.1 million apiece.
More than half of the Boeing 787 is made with composite materials. Boeing Co. says the airplane will be quieter and use 20 percent less fuel than planes of similar size. It will hold between 200 and 330 passengers, depending on the layout.
The outer skin of the airplane and much of the structure underneath are made from carbon-fiber-reinforced composite plastic, not aluminum. In addition, many of the vital systems of the airplane are powered by electrical generators rather than by compressed air diverted from the engines, which is the norm on previous jets.
Because of the new technology, the FAA laid down a series of "special conditions," requiring Boeing to demonstrate that the plane is at least as safe as previous aircraft.
Boeing made its initial application for the 787 in March of 2003. The first model was rolled out in July 2007. The airplane first flew in late 2009.
The planes will be built in Washington state, where about 78,000 of Boeing's 168,000 workers are located, and in South Carolina, where the company recently opened a $750 million assembly plant.
"I congratulate Boeing and its workforce on reaching this incredible milestone," said Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire. "Certification of the 787 Dreamliner begins a new chapter in the company's long history that will include one of the most innovative and fuel-efficient airplanes in the world."
Boeing has not specified how many 787s it will deliver by the end of this year. The number is expected to be fewer than a dozen.
Even as new 787s roll out, hundreds of mechanics and engineers in Everett will remain sidetracked as they slowly rework about 40 of the planes assembled earlier but still in need of major modification. That process is expected to take about two years.
Wall Street analysts have estimated that the 787's delays and technical issues have swelled development costs to somewhere between $12 billion and $18 billion on top of the $5 billion Boeing originally budgeted.