Boeing completed the first test flight of its highly anticipated new lightweight carbon and titanium ‘Dreamliner’ aircraft. The flight, which was more than two years behind schedule due to manufacturing and design problems, was cut short because of bad weather.
Boeing has said the ‘Dreamliner’ will save airlines spending lots of money on fuel and maintenance costs. Airlines like the concept of the mid-sized plane that can carry about 250 people very long distances and have ordered 840 of the aircraft, worth about £86 billion, 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. Building a unique plane from scratch with new materials was never going to be easy. 50% of the 787 aircraft is made from carbon and titanium composites compared to just 12% in a 777 aircraft, making it more difficult to understand how the materials will behave in flight.
Exactly how much profit Boeing can expect to make from the plane is uncertain. Analysts have said the company has invested more than £6.1 billion in the project, and will have to give some sort of compensation to airlines for late planes. How late the planes will be and how they will perform will not be known until flight tests have been completed.
Boeing now hopes to make its first delivery to the plane’s launch customer, Japan’s All Nippon Airways, in late 2010.
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