It’s been a year of mishaps, but Boeing finally has some good news.
The Chicago-based aircraft manufacturer announced over the weekend it had completed its first 787-9 Dreamliner.
A larger incarnation of the 787-8, the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner is 206 feet long — 20 feet longer than its predecessor — and holds 40 more passengers.
Its range is also greater, at 8,000-8,500 nautical miles, versus the 787-8s 7,650-8,200 nautical miles.
Like the 787-8, the new plane uses 20% less fuel than other planes its size.
The new plane rolled out of the factory in Everett, Washington, and is in the flight line awaiting its first flight by Boeing teams.
The plane will be delivered to Air New Zealand, its first customer, in mid-2014.
More: What’s so special about the 787 Dreamliner?
This year, Boeing has had a total of 82 orders to date for the 787, with the largest order of 42 planes coming from American Airlines. Singapore Airlines has the second largest order for 787s with 30 planes ordered.
Approximately 40 percent of all 787 orders to date (not just this year) are for the 787-9.
Boeing’s second and third 787-9 planes remain in final assembly. The company says the schedule is “on track.”
A troublesome year
The announcement is one of the few celebratory moments for the company in recent months.
The four-month global grounding of the entire Dreamliner fleet after an ANA flight was diverted following a battery fire in January was the first such global grounding in 30 years. The grounding was lifted at the end of April.
Since the dramatic ANA incident, Dreamliner’s list of problems have gone on to include a United Airlines emergency landing in Houston due to brake problems, a fire on an Ethiopian Airlines Dreamliner at Heathrow Airport and plane groundings and investigations into a faulty fuel pump indicator, an electric panel, a plane oven and emergency beacons.
As well as being lighter and more fuel efficient than other similar aircraft, the Dreamliner’s in-cabin experience is different too.
It has bigger, dimmable windows (out go the pull-down shutters), it has LED mood lighting and is pressurized at 6,000 feet rather than 8,000 feet, making air sickness less likely.
“We are working with our supplier partners to continue to introduce improvements to the 787-8 to enhance reliability, just as we do for all of our airplane models,” said Boeing’s communications representative Julie O’Donnell. “As the 787-8 and 787-9 share a high degree of commonality, we will apply relevant improvements to the 787-9 as appropriate.”
Frances Cha | CNN