Boeing Co.'s long-delayed 787 completed its maiden trans-Pacific journey and landed in Japan, where the more fuel-efficient jet will undergo testing this week with All Nippon Airways in preparation for its first commercial launch.
The "Dreamliner" touched down at Tokyo's Haneda Airport from Seattle early Sunday to applause and a white "Welcome to Japan" banner held by flight attendants and workers. Two fire trucks shot out celebratory arches of water as the aircraft approached the hangar.
ANA even offered a live video feed of the landing on Ustream. As of Sunday afternoon, the video had been viewed more than 37,000 times.
Pilot Masayuki Ishii said he stayed calm during the flight but grew emotional upon landing and seeing the excitement on the ground.
"I was moved beyond my own expectations," he told reporters.
The 787's much-anticipated arrival marks the near-end of a long wait by ANA, the first customer in line for the next-generation aircraft. Boeing missed the initial May 2008 delivery target and has repeatedly delayed its introduction because of problems in development.
The twin-engine jet is made mostly of carbon fiber and other composite materials instead of aluminum, making it lighter and 20 percent more fuel-efficient than other mid-sized airliners, according to Boeing.
As airlines around the world grapple with rising fuel prices, demand is high for low-consumption planes.
Chicago-based Boeing Co. has taken orders for 835 of the Dreamliners, and hopes to deliver the first one to ANA in August or September.
ANA has ordered 55 787s. Qantas and United Continental Holdings Inc. have each ordered 50, and Japan Airlines has ordered 35.
Rival Airbus' competitor with the 787, the A350, is scheduled to enter service with Qatar Airways in 2013. Airbus has racked up nearly 600 orders for the new jetliner, which is also made mainly of carbon-fiber polymers.
ANA, the world's eighth-largest airline by revenue, considers the Dreamliner an integral part of its global expansion efforts. Because of the 787's range, ANA plans to use it on a number of new long-haul routes that were not previously commercially viable because there were not enough passengers to justify using larger aircraft such as the Boeing 747.
The cabin will have bigger windows and larger overhead compartments. ANA also says passengers will be more comfortable because air pressure during flights will be equivalent to an altitude of 6,000 feet instead of the conventional 8,000 feet.
Masami Tsukamoto, another pilot who flew from Seattle on Sunday, said the higher oxygen level made a noticeable difference on the nine-hour trip.
"Maybe part of it was because we were excited, but compared to regular flights from Los Angeles or San Francisco, I didn't feel so tired," he said.
The test aircraft will fly several of ANA's domestic routes out of Tokyo this week to confirm the jet's readiness for passenger travel. Maintenance crews will also practice refueling, towing and other routine servicing operations.
It is scheduled to depart for Seattle on Saturday, according to ANA.
AP Airlines Writer Josh Freed in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
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