Boeing’s (NYSE:BA) 787-9 took its maiden flight less than two months ago, but nearly a year remains before the aircraft carries its first commercial passengers. The stretched 787 Dreamliner will make its first regularly scheduled passenger flight in October 2014, flying from Auckland, New Zealand to Perth on Australia’s West Coast. Air New Zealand (ANZFF.PK) will be the aircraft’s launch customer, announcing the 787-9’s first flight as part of its preparations to receive the first aircraft of its 10-plane order next year.
“The airplane just did exactly as we expected,” Randy Neville, chief Boeing 787 test pilot, said after guiding the latest iteration of the company’s Dreamliner jet through the Washington skies for its first flight on September 17. “There were no surprises,” he said at later news conference. “This is a beautiful machine,” added Ray Conner, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, on the company’s webcast shortly after takeoff. “It’s going to be the backbone of the 787 fleet.”
At 206 feet, Boeing’s 787-9 is 29 feet longer than its predecessor, it holds 40 more passengers than the 250-seat 787-8, and it has a greater range of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles. Like earlier versions of the plane, the “Dash Nine,” as it is known within Boeing, requires 20 percent less fuel and has 20 percent fewer emissions than other planes its size. It was “about as close to a flawless first flight as I could have imagined,” added Mark Jenks, vice president of 787 development, during the subsequent press conference.