People near the Idaho Falls Regional Airport got an eyeful Saturday evening when a modified Boeing 747 called the Dreamlifter made some test takeoffs and landings.
The freight plane is a 747-400 modified to a height of four stories and has been designed to haul parts of Boeing's still-in-development 787 Dreamliner from the company's plants around the world to the main plant in Everett, Wash.
There are only two Dreamlifters in the world, both of which fly out of Seattle.
David Snell, a customer service agent for Horizon Air, was on the job Saturday night at about 8:30 when he saw the plane in the flight tracker.
Late in the week, the Idaho Falls tower had been alerted that the plane would be coming to do some ""touch-and-go"" maneuvers in preparation for its FAA certification.
Snell said this is the second 747 he's seen land on the Idaho Falls runway. The first was Air Force One, which was here in 1996 while President Bill Clinton was vacationing in Jackson Hole, Wyo.
Airport Manager Lynn Nelson said Idaho Falls' VOR (VHF Omni-directional Range) beacon is on the main route between Denver and Seattle, and test pilots, looking for an out-of-the-way place to land, frequently home in on it.
""They transit over this VOR a lot,"" he said. ""We get test aircraft here quite often.""
Saturday night also was the night the 747-400 received certification from the Federal Aviation Administration.
That certification recognizes that the plane has successfully passed all the FAA's safety tests. Since its first flight on Sept. 9, the plane has completed 437 flight test hours and 639 hours of grand testing.
The two Dreamlifters will soon be delivered to Evergreen International Airlines of McMinnville, Ore. That company must first complete a process that demonstrates it is ready to operate the aircraft.
A Boeing news release said the company expects to hand the plane over sometime this month.
Once in service, it will fly between Everett and four other places where parts of the 787 are being made - Wichita, Kan.; Charleston, S.C.; Nagoya, Japan; and Grottaglie, Italy.
""You won't see an airplane like this every day,"" Boeing spokeswoman Mary Hanson said.
Snell said he managed to break away from his job at the airport to go to the end of the runway to watch the plane take off. The dust and grass it kicked up on takeoff was considerable.
""It was really something,"" he said. ""We ended up being covered in dirt.""
Staff writer Paul Menser can be reached at 542-6752.
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