Boeing's Dreamliner, jumbo 747-8 move closer to takeoff

-- May 1--Boeing's great airplane-making machine, bedeviled by unprecedented production delays during the last two years, is almost ready to introduce two new airplanes to the world. Thursday morning, the 787 Dreamliner No. 1...

The word "experimental" is stenciled over the flight-deck door, reflecting the aircraft's certification for test purposes only.

Some of the passenger windows have been replaced with plugs containing measuring instruments.

Rolls-Royce engines

The Rolls-Royce engines are ready to be switched on once the plane is fueled, possibly as soon as this weekend.

The tires, Bridgestone radials made in Japan, are ready to meet the runway.

The ground tests will take weeks, but an on-schedule first flight in June seems assured.

Back in the factory across the freeway, mechanics scrambled in and out of Dreamliner No. 3, the only one of the six test airplanes that will be fitted with an interior passenger cabin.

Two bays over, on the main 787 assembly line, Dreamliners No. 2, 4, 5 and 6 were lined up one behind the other, their airframes largely complete.

Boeing will refurbish the six test airplanes after flight test. It previously had assigned each to a customer. Their painted rudders show that 2, 4 and 5 were intended to go to All Nippon Airways of Japan, Northwest Airlines and Royal Air Maroc.

That won't happen now. Recently, all those customers opted to take regular production jets instead.

Boeing is now seeking new customers to take the test airplanes, likely private VIP customers willing to take the heavier planes at a knockdown price.

Still, whoever gets Dreamliner No. 1 may pay a premium for a piece of aviation history.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

Video -- Boeing 787 ready for its closeup

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