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The 787 Dreamliner lifts its nose during taxi run  (Source: Boeing)
Boeing's 787 Dreamliner inches closer to its first flight

Boeing's highly anticipated 787 Dreamliner is more than two years late, but things are finally starting to kick into high gear with the aircraft's development. Over the weekend, Boeing test pilots taxied the jet down the runway at 150 mph and managed to lift its nose off the ground [video].

"Our pilots told me the airplane performed beautifully," said 787 chief project engineer Mike Delaney. "We're going through and analyzing the data to ensure we're ready for first flight. From evaluations we've done so far, everything looks good."

While this may seem like a small step to some, this is just the precursor to the big event which is scheduled for Tuesday. On Tuesday at 10 am PST -- if all goes according to plan -- Boeing's 787 will take to the air for the first time. According to HeraldNet, the composite-bodied aircraft will remain aloft for more than five hours as critical systems and flight performance/handling characteristics are carefully monitored.

3News reports that roughly 600 engineers and 400 mechanics will be on hand for the exhaustive nine-month flight testing phase of the program. During this phase, six aircraft will be flown on a regular basis to work out any problems that are bound to crop up during typical flight testing.

The 787 has been plagued with problems during its prolonged development. Most recently, problems with the aircraft's wingbox were discovered. It was found that composite sheets covering the wings were delaminating under stress.

Many of the problems surrounding the 787, however, have come from the fact that much of the production of key components of the aircraft have been farmed out to different contractors around the world.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO and president Scott Carson noted in early 2008, "The fundamental design and technologies of the 787 remain sound," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO and president Scott Carson. "However, we continue to be challenged by start-up issues in our factory and in our extended global supply-chain."

For those that haven't been keeping up with the program, the 787's airframe is composed of 50 percent composites, 20 percent aluminum, 15 percent titanium, and 10 percent steel. The 787 can cruise at Mach 0.85 and uses 20 percent less fuel than a comparable Airbus A330. For those that like to stay connected while in the air, the 787 also features built-in wired networking.

Boeing has 840 firm orders for its sleek 787 Dreamliner as of November 2009.

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RE: haha?
By bubba551 on 12/14/2009 9:04:58 AM , Rating: 2
I think that my unwillingness to fly on any Airbus is based on perception.

Two airbuses falling apart in mid-air in this decade has tainted that perception.

RE: haha?
By MrFord on 12/14/2009 10:18:48 AM , Rating: 4
I hope you never have to fly a DC-10 then. Or a 737. Or a CRJ. Or a 727. Or a 747. Come to think of, Lauda Air lost a 767 due to thrust reverser mid-air.

RE: haha?
By Oregonian2 on 12/14/2009 1:20:02 PM , Rating: 1
What do those planes have to do with Bubba's avoidance of Airbus planes? Or is Airbus now using Boeing designations like the ones you list?

He may like to walk. :-)

RE: haha?
By MrFord on 12/14/2009 1:57:29 PM , Rating: 2
All had one or more mid-air disintegration. In fact, barring the 777 (and maybe the ERJ series AFAIK), pretty much every airplane models had at least one. I hope he likes ground transportation!

RE: haha?
By chromal on 12/14/2009 2:20:51 PM , Rating: 2
You're far more likely to die in ground transport than an aircraft, composites or no.

RE: haha?
By hduser on 12/14/2009 3:18:19 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know why but I never felt safe on a DC-10.

RE: haha?
By hduser on 12/14/2009 3:37:15 PM , Rating: 2
And not because of the DC-10 track history, just the way it flew and landed.

RE: haha?
By Leomania on 12/14/2009 4:13:01 PM , Rating: 2
Older planes like the 737 and DC-10 had some early life failures that were rectified and have since been proven reliable. The most recent Airbus crashes appear to have a smoking gun (the airspeed sensors) but until those are replaced and some amount of time passes without similar incidents, I'd say it's not unreasonable to have an elevated concern about an Airbus.

RE: haha?
By oxymojoe on 12/14/2009 4:23:26 PM , Rating: 2
So what do you suggest people fly in? Do you have any idea how many 727's and 737's are in service right now? Your comment is ridiculous.

RE: haha?
By MrFord on 12/15/2009 10:28:13 AM , Rating: 2
I just made a sarcastic comment as a response to irrational fear.

I'm just saying that because one A330 was lost mid-air doesn't make every Airbus unsafe, just like all these planes are still safe to fly in even if they were victims of similar breakup.

737's rudder reversal didn't stop people from flying in it, and is one of the safest plane around, but they still lost 2. Took years to finally find out the problem in the hydraulic rudder activator, and it took a pretty rare chain of event to trigger it. Similar to the A330 pitot tube problems, where heavy thunderstorms, probable icing, and I'm sure other failures brought the plane down.

RE: haha?
By bubba551 on 12/15/2009 4:01:39 PM , Rating: 2
You'll notice that I indicated "this decade."

The Laudia Air 767 incident (1991) occurred after the pilots received a visual warning of the potential for thruster reversal and ignored it.

In contrast, the NYC Airbus crash occurred when the pilot steered too hard and the rudder fell off. (If you crashed your car solely because the wheels fell off, would you accept 'oh you steered too quickly' as an excuse from the manufacturer?)

RE: haha?
By OCedHrt on 12/14/2009 8:13:01 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know anything about the technical merits of Airbus over Boeing but from having been in both, I definitely feel more comfortable in a Boeing. This may be a subconscious preference, but I do feel more frame stressing(?) on the Airbus.

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