787 Dreamliner passes runway tests 'beautifully'

787 Dreamliner passes runway tests 'beautifully'
EVERETT, Wash. - Like a blue-and-white vision of the future, the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner taxied down a Paine Field runway on Saturday amid the throaty whine of its turbines.

It was the final test before the 787's long-anticipated maiden flight, tentatively set for Tuesday, and Boeing officials said the jetliner performed "beautifully."

The plane made about a half-dozen test runs to check out performance on the runway, including high-speed taxiing and sudden braking.

"Our pilots told me the airplane performed beautifully," said Mike Delaney, vice president and chief project engineer for the 787.

"We're going through and analyzing the data to ensure we're ready for first flight. From evaluations we've done so far, everything looks good," he added.

During the testing, the airplane reached a top speed of 150 mph, and the pilots lifted the nose gear from the pavement.

The glimpse of the future of flight was too tempting for many to pass up, including youngster Johnathan Hamstra, who brought his camera.

"Got it coming down the runway a couple of times," he says. "I think I got some of the smoke off the tires (as it applied emergency brakes)."

He wasn't the only one snapping photos of Boeing's day-long taxiing tests. Some were aviation experts - and others just wanted to feel the rumble of the twin turbines and hear the echo it made across Paine Field.

Byron Muck, who worked on the Dreamliner before retirement, was there. He's says Boeing made the right call to build the 787 out of lightweight composite material instead of metal.

"It's the way of the future. It's lighter. It's stronger," he says.

The tests follow two years of delays, and the actual first flight could be delayed beyond Tuesday if conditions are not perfect.

The actual flight timing is dependent on final internal reviews, the results of Saturday's taxi testing, Federal Aviation Administration documentation and the weather.

In order for the 787 to be cleared for takeoff, Mother Nature will need to provide good visibility, no standing water on the runway and gentle to no wind, said Yvonne Leach, spokeswoman for the 787 program.

The company also said it has completed "final gauntlet" testing on the 787 and verified the success of fixes it made to a structural problem.

Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, says two days of testing checked out all the airplane systems, such as avionics, hydraulics and electrical.

Boeing, based in Chicago, earlier reinforced weak points near the area where the wings attach to the fuselage, then conducted a so-called static test - essentially bending the wings - on the repairs.

Fancher says Boeing has completed its analysis of that static test and called it successful.

Boeing says the 787 will be more efficient, quieter and have lower emissions than other airplanes. The midsize plane also will have wider seats and aisles, and larger windows.

Depending on its configuration, the plane will hold as many as 330 passengers. First deliveries are now estimated to begin by the end of May.

Visit the seattlepi.com's aerospace blog for more photos of the taxi testing.