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Earlier today in North Charleston, South Carolina, Boeing’s longest 787 Dreamliner variant took to the skies, launching a year-long test program. The flight marked the very first time a Boeing-designed commercial plane had ever made its first flight outside of Washington State’s Puget Sound region.

“The 787-10’s first flight moves us one step closer to giving our customers the most efficient airplane in its class,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Kevin McAllister. “The airplane will give carriers added flexibility in growing their network routes and build on the overwhelming success of the 787 Dreamliner family.”

Boeing’s 787-10 Dreamliner, moments before its first flight.

If you’ve ever flown on a 787 Dreamliner, you already know it’s one of the most comfortable and quiet planes on which you can fly. Its cabin environment system simulates an altitude of 6,000 feet above sea level, while most airliners have a simulated altitude of about 10,000 feet. The lower altitude leaves you less jetlagged. Naturally, you’ll find the best ride up front in first or business class, especially because some 787s can feel a bit cramped back in coach, with the same 3-3-3 seating arrangement that you’ll find on the wider Boeing 777.

The 787-10 is simply an 18-foot-longer version of the 787-9, holding 40 more passengers. The enlarged section and extra weight means it can’t fly quite as far as the 787-9, but it can still cover 90 percent of the world’s possible wide-body routes, according to Boeing’s VP and General Manager Product Development, Ken Sanger.

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Today, the pilots kept the plane mostly in the Eastern region of South Carolina, with a brief jaunt over to the capital city of Columbia, and a quick border crossing into North Carolina. The Boeing test pilots — Tim Berg and Mike Bryan — spent four hours and 58 minutes in the air, putting the aircraft through 50 pages of tests of various technical and mechanical functions.

Boeing 787 test pilots Mike Bryan (left) and Tim Berg.

At a post-flight press briefing, Captain Berg said, “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.”

Boeing will use three test aircraft to certify the 787-10. The first two are already complete. The one that flew Friday has Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-TEN engines. The second aircraft, which sports General Electric GEnX-1B76 engines, is already completed and currently awaiting a paint job. The third plane — already in final assembly — will also have Rolls-Royce engines, but each plane will have a specific role in flight test certifications. There has to be at least two certification planes because of the two engine types, but a third plane will help Boeing get the -10 (“dash ten”) certified more quickly.

Boeing employees capture the 787-10 as it heads to the runway for the very first time.

To date, 149 787-10s have been ordered, with the first one expected to be delivered to Singapore Airlines sometime during the first half of 2018. United Airlines will be the first North American carrier to receive it, in Q4 of next year. ANA, British Airways, Etihad, EVA Air, and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines are the other direct airline customers who have ordered this stretched version of Boeing’s latest plane.

All images by the author.

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