Tuesday was a good day to be an engineer. It would have been an even better day if you were an aerospace engineer. After two years of waiting, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner took its first flight. It flew successfully and concluded its flight at Boeing Field, in Seattle. The weather for the flight was typical for Seattle in December, cloudy and wet.
Being a first flight, flew chances were taken. There were chase planes, helicopters and emergency vehicles. The Dreamliner flew the entire flight with its landing gear down. The pilots flew for over two hours, which is unusually long for a first flight. Earlier this year, another airframer had scheduled a twenty-minute first flight, but cut it short after only seven minutes.
One of the main technical innovation embodied in the Dreamliner is its construction from a plastic composite material that saves on weight and fuel costs. The other main innovation involving the 787 is not a technical one, but a business model one. The Dreamliner is built in pieces around the world. This business model is intended to share the cost and also the risk of building a new airliner. Twice before, with the 707 and the 747, Boeing has bet the company on a new airplane and won. This time, by sharing the cost, Boeing planned on hedging its bet.
Pictured below is the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It is shown accelerating down the runway before taking off on its first flight at Paine Field in Everett, Washington. The picture is from picapp.com. Click on it for more photos.
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