Boeing Dreamliner flies at last

2009-12-16 09:34

Seattle - Boeing Co completed the first test flight of its new lightweight carbon and titanium Dreamliner, but the flight was cut short because of bad weather.

The flight was more than two years behind schedule because of manufacturing and design problems.

The 787 Dreamliner's highly anticipated takeoff and landing were witnessed by several thousand Boeing employees, industry VIPs, airplane enthusiasts and reporters. But excitement and relief spread throughout the aerospace industry.

The plane, which Boeing has said will save airlines million of dollars in fuel and maintenance costs, has been hampered by a shortage of bolts, faulty design and a two-month strike at its factory.

Airlines like the concept of the mid-sized plane that can carry about 250 people very long distances. They have ordered 840 of the aircraft, worth about $140bn, since work began on the plane in 2004.

But production has been delayed five times in the past three years, and the first flight has been postponed six times.

Rival Airbus, a unit of Europe's EADS, has been attracting buyers for its competing A350 plane, which will also be made primarily from carbon-composite materials.

Exactly how much profit Boeing can expect to make from the plane is uncertain. Analysts have said the company has invested more than $10bn in the project, and will have to give some sort of compensation to customers for late planes. How late the planes will be and how they will perform will not be known until flight tests have been completed.

- Reuters