The first flight of Boeing's 787 was marked by poor weather conditions, though the skies over Everett's Paine Field co-operated just long enough to allow the first majority-composite jetliner to take to the skies for the first time.
Dreamliner one, designated ZA001, departed Runway 34L at 10:27 on 15 December with two company-owned Lockheed T-33 chase aircraft formatting off its dramatically flexing wing tips. At the controls for the 3h 5min maiden sortie were 787 chief pilot Capt Mike Carriker and test pilot Capt Randy Neville.
At the start of the its take-off roll, ZA001 weighed 177,000kg (390,000lb), and rotated at an estimated 145kt (268km/h) with flaps set at 20°.
"Hot diggity dang, TM, it works!" said Carriker shortly after take-off to the telemetry room monitoring the flight.
Carriker made a slow climb out of Paine Field, away from the site where the aircraft had spent 944 days being prepared for its first flight, proceed to the north over Puget Sound and made a shallow left turn to the west.
Carriker said a T-38 chase aircraft flew the originally planned track over eastern Washington, but after experiencing turbulence and low visibility, the decision was made to execute "Plan B", a track that would take the aircraft to the west over Puget Sound.
"Hey TM, it flies pretty dang good," Carriker reported to the ground. "I've got bank angle under control, I certainly have heading under control, and I've got velocity along the vector under control. Auto throttle worked on the take-off, got the thrust set right on them and we're VNAV and vertical speed on the way up, autoflight," he added.
ZA001 slowly climbed to as high as 13,200ft and reached a maximum speed of 180kt.
Initially, the crew was unable to deploy the static cone that trails from the top of the fin to measure static air speed, requiring Neville to leave the flightdeck and reset circuit breakers in the rear of the 787's cabin.
The longest leg flown by ZA001 was about 100km (55nm) before having to turn as a result of the poor weather. Carriker said a typical flight would see straight legs of 370km.
The bulk of first flight, says Neville, was spent flying with flaps 20 and the landing gear down. Before landing, ZA001 lowered flaps to 30° and cycled the landing gear.
"We ultimately got to flaps 30 and cycled the landing gear, that was an important point," says Neville. "Brought the gear up and breathed a big sigh of relief when we brought the gear down, and it came down properly. Then we checked out flaps 30, which is our landing configuration. And we came back and landed that way."
The weather in the Seattle upon arrival at Boeing field showed ceilings at 5,000ft and the cold, wet conditions required the wing and engine anti-ice system to be switched from "Auto" to "On", or manual.
The original plan for first flight was to operate under visual flight rules throughout. However, the weather ultimately abbreviated the flight and required Carriker and Neville to execute an instrument landing approach to Runway 13R at Boeing Field in Seattle, touching down at 13:35.