NORTH CHARLESTON — The third and final Boeing 787 Dreamliner variant made a successful first flight this morning, from Boeing’s East Coast home in North Charleston, SC. The aircraft — registered N5287C (MSN 60256) — departed Charleston International Airport at 9:38 a.m. local time, with Boeing test pilots Tim Berg and Mike Bryan in the flight deck.
Although the Boeing 717 was developed (by McDonnell-Douglas as the MD-95) in California, the 787-10 is the first Boeing-designed commercial jet produced and flight tested outside of the Puget Sound region.
A Lockheed T-33 chase plane took to the air only a couple of minutes before the stretched Dreamliner. Though the weather forecast had caused some concern earlier in the week, the conditions ended up being ideal, with sunlight and broken clouds.
The first test aircraft is fit with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-TEN engines, which first flew on their 747 testbed aircraft in Tucson, Arizona. On December 16, 2016, the engine made its first 787 flight, aboard test aircraft ZA004. Rolls-Royce says the TEN acronym stands for Thrust, Efficiency, and New Technology. Rolls-Royce is offering the 1000-TEN engine for all three 787 variants. It’s capable of 78,000 pounds of thrust.
Gary Moore, Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 Program Director was in attendance for the flight. He said, “To have powered the first flights of each version of the Dreamliner is a great honor. The Trent 1000 engine continues to show great momentum in the marketplace.” Since its certification ten years ago, the Trent 1000 has flown over 750 million miles.
General Electric’s GEnX 1B76 is also offered on the 787-10, and produces 76,100 pounds of thrust, with a fan diameter of 111.1 inches, the same as the other GE 787 engines. The second 787-10 will have the GE engines, followed by the third, which will have Rolls-Royce.
During the flight, a briefing was given to the media, at which Regional Director of Product Marketing Justin Hale and VP General Manager 787 Development Ken Sanger spoke about the status of the program. Boeing expects the widebody market to more than double, from 5040 today to 10,450 in the next 20 years, and not surprisingly, expects their 787 family to play a big role in that. Boeing really beat the drum of family commonality, versus the two A350s from Airbus, and their A330neo. Its 6,400 nautical mile range covers 90 percent of the world’s twin-aisle routes.
Calling their 787-8 a “Route Opener,” the 787-9 a “Growth Vehicle,” and 787-10 an “Efficiency Machine,” Boeing has received 1,207 total Dreamliner orders, with 524 deliveries to date. There have been 329 787-8 and 195 787-9 deliveries as of today. Boeing declined to comment on the exact number of Dreamliner’s that have been delivered in South Carolina.
The 787 99.3% rate of schedule reliability. No other plane beats that except the 777. The 787-10 has received 149 firm orders from 9 customers. Expected entry into service date is the first half of 2018.
Boeing disclosed that after strengthening the wings of the -10 to support the additional length of the airframe, Boeing opted to begin delivering the -9 is being with the slightly different -10 wings on it. Another upgrade to the -10 is its semi-levered main landing gear, with an added hydraulic strut, very similar to the 777-300ER.
The flight cruised around the Southeastern portion of South Carolina at altitudes between 15,000 and 20,000 feet, at speeds ranging from 160 to 386 knots.
The aircraft landed at 14:35 local time, and taxied back to the Delivery Center. After the plane was given a quick visual inspection, it was towed to its parking spot, where pilots departed and posed for a photo. Next, they were greeted on the stairs by some Boeing executives for handshakes. Finally, they met their family for hugs at the bottom of the stairs.
During a brief post-flight press conference, Ken Sanger said, “When you think about how far we’ve come, in really not a long time, it’s very remarkable. When I look at this airplane behind us, I think we nailed it… Congratulations to everyone. Go, Team Charleston!”
787 Chief Model Pilot Tim Berg “We had a great flight today. This is a really great airplane. Mike and I enjoyed the whole day. We did exactly what we wanted to do, and it did exactly what we thought it would. That’s about as perfect as it gets as a test pilot.” Berg said they had a 50-page list of tasks to complete, which thy had been rehearsing and planning for weeks, including on this aircraft. He called today’s flight “flawless.”
Deputy Chief Model Pilot Mike Bryan said, “There were two pilots in the front, but there were a lot of people behind us. Everything it has taken to make it from an 8 to a 9 to a 10 has been unbelievable. As I got to say two years ago with the -9, no squawks. Beautiful airplane.”
The first two 787-10 test aircraft will be used for systems and mechanical testing, such as flutter control. The third aircraft, currently in final assembly, will be used for testing of its cabin environmental control systems. Sanger said the plane will be flown to Seattle late next week, where it will be based during the testing program.
Also taking place today, Airbus flew its first A319neo, equipped with CFM LEAP engines. But this isn’t the first instance of another manufacturer attempting to steal Boeing’s thunder. Bombardier flew their CS100 for the first time, on September 17, 2013, the same day that Boeing first flew the 787-9.