The newest model of Boeing's beleaguered but popular 787 Dreamliner, the 787-9, has a first flight date sometime in mid-September, aviation sources say.
Initial tests on the 787-9 are ongoing this week to prepare the stretched version of the composite-bodied, twin-engine plane for its first takeoff from Everett's Paine Field.
The 787-9, which will carry on average about 40 more passengers than the base 787-8 model, is stretched by 20-feet over the -8. The plane also will have a range about 330 miles greater than the smaller model.
The first -9 was rolled out of Boeing's Everett factory with little public ceremony Saturday. Its low-key debut was in contrast to the 787-8's rollout on July 8, 2007 or 7-8-07. That ceremony was broadcast around the world.
Hundreds of airline and leasing company executives attended in person.
But the 787 rolled out that day was nowhere ready to fly. It was held together in many places with household grade fastners because of a shortage of aerospace fasteners. Many of its systems were incomplete. That plane was supposed to take to the air for the first time a month or so after the ceremony, but it was some 2 1/2 years later that it flew.
Boeing is already building the second and third test 787-9s on the Everett assembly line. Those two planes will join the aircraft that rolled out Saturday for six months or more of flight testing. The first 787-9 is scheduled to be delivered to to launch customer Air New Zealand next summer.
The first version of the 787-8, the first airliner built largely of composites instead of metal encountered serious issues. The fleet of 787s was grounded for four months this year while Boeing sought a solution to battery problems that caused fires in two 787s.
This summer, the plane also had issues with wiring for an emergency locator beacon.
The 787-9 is the second of three planned variants of the Dreamliner. Boeing has 376 orders for the -9 version. The base -8 model has 510 orders while the double-stretched 787-10 has 50 orders.