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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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By DougF on 12/14/2009 5:18:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Although from what I've read there were numerous manufacturing issues going to stressed skins... is that what you meant?
Yes, but maintenance issues as well (ref Aloha Air 243).


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