Boeing’s latest passenger jet, the scaled-up version of the Dreamliner known as the 787–9, successfully completed its maiden flight today. Compared to its forerunner, the newer version seats 40 more people (a total of 290) and can fly 300 more miles without refuelling.
A "no-squawk flight"
The jet was airborne for just over five hours in what senior project pilot Capt. Mike Bryan called a "no-squawk flight," before touching down at Boeing Field in Seattle, reports Reuters. The news no doubt comes as a relief to Boeing, as both the original Dreamliner (787–8) and its longer cousin have been plagued with electrical system issues and other problems. After the 787 was grounded and received a much-needed battery redesign earlier this year, one of the jets caught fire at Heathrow Airport over the summer. And while the cause of the fire was determined to be unrelated to earlier battery problems, faulty fire extinguisher wiring has subsequently been found on three of Japanese airline ANA’s Dreamliners.
The original 787 was Boeing’s first stab at creating a passenger jet primarily out of composite materials, which now outweigh the metal used in its construction. Built with carbon fiber and powered by more efficient engines, it promised 20 percent better fuel economy than similarly-sized jets from Boeing's competitors. But they appear to be catching up: Canada's Bombardier successfully completed its own test flight this week for the CS100 — a smaller, narrow-body composite aircraft that the company says burns 20 percent less fuel than competing jets already in the air.
For the 787–9, Boeing lengthened the first-generation Dreamliner by more than 10 percent to 206 feet in order to fit more passengers onboard, but it still has another stretch in store. Its third-generation 787, the 787–10, will measure 224 feet and seat up to 330 when it’s launched in 2018.