First South Carolina-built 787 takes to the sky

The first Boeing Co. jetliner assembled outside Washington took flight Wednesday, less than a month after the 787 Dreamliner was rolled out of the company’s North Charleston, S.C., facility.

Boeing deemed the Dreamliner’s flight a success.

“First flight of this South Carolina-built airplane is a significant achievement and our teammates did a great job working together to make this happen,” Tim Berg, one of the Boeing pilots on the flight, said in a statement. “The airplane performed exactly as we expected.”

The plane had been scheduled to take off at 8:15 a.m. Pacific time, but the mostly composite Dreamliner had to complete taxi testing before it could fly, pushing departure back to about 9:01 a.m.

After leaving Charleston International Airport, the plane flew northeast along the coast to North Carolina and then turned south over the Atlantic Ocean and headed toward the Bahamas. The Dreamliner returned to Charleston after about three hours and 45 minutes. Boeing pilots continued flight testing with an hourlong series of touch-and-go landings in which the aircraft lands briefly and takes off again without stopping.

The flight was part of the typical testing required by federal regulators for any newly assembled aircraft. Boeing conducted tests of the 787’s controls and systems to verify the airplane operates as designed. Pilots Berg and Randy Neville also shut down and restarted each of the 787’s two engines.

Neville called it a beautiful flight. The aircraft flew almost 2,000 miles and climbed to 41,000 feet.

The first Dreamliner built in South Carolina will be delivered to Air India. After flight testing wraps up, Boeing will fly the jet to Fort Worth, Texas, where the Dreamliner will be repainted for delivery this summer.

“Today, we watched as this airplane successfully completed its first production flight — one step closer to delivering our first South Carolina-built 787 Dreamliner to our customer,” Jack Jones, general manager of Boeing South Carolina, said in a statement.

It is the first Boeing widebody aircraft built outside the Puget Sound area. Boeing already has built and delivered 787s from the plant at Paine Field in Everett. In late October 2009, Boeing picked North Charleston as the site for a second final assembly line for the Dreamliner, a jet made mostly from carbon-fiber composites. The second line was needed to help Boeing meet a production pace of 10 aircraft per month by the end of 2013.

Thirty months after breaking ground on Boeing’s $750 million final assembly factory in North Charleston, the company rolled out the first Dreamliner built there.

“This is a proud moment for our Boeing South Carolina team and for Boeing,” Jones said on Wednesday.

Boeing plans to deliver four 787s from South Carolina this year. The Chicago-based jet maker has about 840 unfilled orders for the Dreamliner.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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