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By Bernard Choi
May 12, 2010
ZA003, the third 787 Dreamliner was first, launching just before 9:30 am Saturday.
An hour later, the plane's older sibling, ZA001, soared into the skies over Washington state. By noon, two more 787s had taken off, orchestrating a Dreamliner quartet in the sky. This weekend marked the first time all four airplanes in the 787 flight test fleet were airborne simultaneously. It's a symbolic milestone for a program that continues to gain momentum.
On Saturday, more than 72 crew members, including the pilots, were onboard the jets, with only a handful needed on the ground in the control room. "The team did a great job coordinating the efforts of the four airplanes and ensuring we were able to achieve our objectives," said Rudy Duran, test program manager for the 787 fleet.
Early in any flight test program, airplanes spend a lot of time in "layup," where crews on the ground perform routine analysis and maintenance to prepare the jets for flight. While that work will continue, the 787 test fleet is now spending more time in the air.
The four flying Dreamliners have now logged more than 600 flight-test hours since the first jet flew on Dec. 15, 2009. Each has a specific role to play in the test program:
Meanwhile, the 787 team is preparing two more Dreamliners - ZA005 and ZA006 - to join the flight test fleet later this year. These airplanes will focus on performance with the GE GEnx engine. The first four airplanes are powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.
The 787 Dreamliner is an all-new twinjet designed to provide nonstop service between mid-size cities with new efficiency. The airplane will bring improved levels of comfort to passengers with larger windows, bigger baggage bins and advances in the cabin environment, including lower cabin altitude, higher humidity and cleaner air.
Fifty-seven customers around the world have ordered 866 787s. Boeing is on track to deliver the first 787 to ANA later this year.