Why Did Boeing Spend All Night “Drawing” a 787 in the Sky?

Aug 3, 2017

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Update 8/3/17 12:09pm: Boeing just sent along the following explanation:

Boeing flight test teams are performing an 18 hour endurance flight with a 787-8 Dreamliner. Rather than fly in random patterns, the test team got creative, flying a route that outlined a 787-8 in the skies over 22 states. The nose of the Dreamliner is pointing at the Puget Sound region, home to Boeing Commercial Airplanes. The wings stretch from northern Michigan near the Canadian border to southern Texas. The tail touches Huntsville, Alabama.

Update 8/3/17 11:49am: Aviation enthusiast Jason Rabinowitz has posted a very cool timeline of last night’s flight:


No, really… do you have any idea why Boeing just flew more than 10,000 miles over some 18 hours without leaving the US? With loads of fuel at stake, it can’t just be “for the heck of it,” right?

Here’s what we know…

Last night, aviation journalist Jon Ostrower shared a very interesting flight plan:

Now, it’s no secret that Boeing is currently testing the Dreamliner‘s new Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 TEN engines, which need to be put through their paces before they’re certified to operate passenger flights. Last night’s flight was almost certainly a component of that testing (we’ve reached out to Boeing for confirmation). Regardless of the reason, it was one heck of an incredible routing.

As you may recall, Boeing drew the word “MAX” in the sky earlier this year, to celebrate the launch of the 737 MAX narrow-body plane.

Quite a snooze by comparison, though.

Naturally, I checked the Dreamliner’s progress before I went to bed:

And again right after I woke up this morning:

Now, some 15 hours after it took off from Boeing Field in Seattle, the 787 has completed its “aircraft sketch” portion of the flight and is now making its way back home.

While this flight was without a doubt more interesting to watch from the ground (18 hours on a bare-bones airliner doesn’t sound like a ton of fun), it’s certainly quite a achievement for this particular aircraft — and the crew.

That said… Delta/United, if you’re planning to sketch a 747 at 30,000 feet ahead of your retirements later this year, we’d love to join for the ride!

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