The first Boeing 787 to be built at Charleston, South Carolina, flew earlier today (May 23), essentially completing the manufacturer’s goal of establishing dual assembly lines for its new widebody.
The aircraft is the 46th 787 to be built and the first Boeing jet airliner to be completed away from either the Puget Sound, Wash area, or the heritage McDonnell Douglas manufacturing sites in Southern California. Following flight tests, and subsequent painting in Amarillo, Texas, the aircraft is due to be delivered to Air India by the end of June.
The Charleston-built aircraft, ZA237, was piloted by 787 chief test pilot Randy Neville (who was co-pilot for the first flight of the 787 with Mike Carriker in December 2009) and Tim Berg. Most of the testing during the five-hour sortie took place over the Atlantic in an area off the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Boeing says the B-1 production test flight included “tests of the airplane's controls and systems in a series of scenarios designed to verify the airplane operates as designed. The tests occurred in all stages of flight beginning prior to taxi, through final landing and taxi. During the flight, the crew checked the functionality of onboard systems at high and medium altitudes. They also checked backup and critical safety elements including cabin pressurization, avionics, and navigation and communications systems. In addition, they shut down and re-started each engine during flight.”
The next three 787s off the Charleston line will also go to Air India, completing all the planned deliveries Boeing expects to make from the South Carolina site in 2012. The delivery rate is expected to grow to 3.5 per month by early 2014, as part of gradual ramp-up of production at both lines which should see the combined rate pass the 10 787s per month mark by the end of 2013.
Boeing, which rolled out the General Electric GEnx-1B-powered Air India aircraft on April 27, announced its selection of the Charleston site in October 2009.