Japan Airlines' (JAL) first two 787-8s have departed Paine Field en route to Tokyo, marking the official operational service entry of General Electric's GEnx-1B engine.

Boeing marked its first twin 787 delivery on 25 March, delivering aircraft 33 and 23, registered JA825A and JA822A, with JAL becoming the type's second customer after All Nippon Airways.

Operating as Japan Airlines Flight 8101, JA825A departed Boeing's Everett, Washington facility at 16:32 hours local time for the approximately 10h flight to Tokyo's Narita Airport. Flight 8102 departed at 17:43 hours local time en route to Tokyo-Haneda Airport. The pair were the sixth and seventh 787s delivered since September 2011.

Following domestic proving flights to train operations, flight, cabin and maintenance personnel, the airline will begin the first North American 787 service on 22 April connecting Narita Airport with Boston's Logan International Airport, the US city's first Asia connection.

Yoshiharu Ueki, president of JAL, called the 787 a "strategic aircraft that will play a key part in the expansion" of the carrier.

Boeing designed the 787 with long-range low-density routes in mind, joining city pairs that were not able to be operated profitably with larger aircraft.

Services to Beijing, Delhi and Moscow are slated to begin before the end of May once additional aircraft are available, with San Diego and Helsinki expected to follow later this year.

The start of 787 services to Beijing, Delhi, Moscow and Singapore have been delayed approximately one month, says Ueki, after the aircraft required inspections and repairs following the discovery of improper shimming in the aft fuselage structure.

For JAL, which emerged from bankruptcy restructuring almost exactly a year ago on 28 March 2011, the delivery marked a new chapter for the Dreamliner's second customer.

JAL has 45 787s on order, including 20 of the larger 787-9s, which will arrive in fiscal year 2015, which begins on 1 April 2015.

JAL's first two 787s will be followed by two more in the near term, though the carrier declined to specify timing. It is negotiating subsequent deliveries with Boeing.

Outfitted with 186 seats, the 787s feature 42 lie-flat B/E Aerospace MiniPod seating in a 2-2-2 configuration for executive class passengers, and in econony 144 Recaro CL3510 seats in 2-4-2 arrangement. JAL iss the launch customer for the Thales i8000 series in-flight entertainment.

JAL was one of the 787s earliest launch customers, having ordered 30 of the twin-jets in 2005. The carrier was one of two customers to order the now-defunct medium-range 787-3, intended for domestic operations, but converted the order to long-range -8s in 2009 following extended delays to the programme and Boeing's shifting engineering priorities.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news