Boeing has officially set 15 December at 1800 GMT (1000 PT) for the first flight of the 787 Dreamliner after receiving final approval from the US Federal Aviation Administration, followed by the flight readiness review and successful completion of high-speed taxi tests.

ZA001, the airframer's first 787 Dreamliner, spent six hours on 12 December conducting taxi tests at the company's Everett, Washington facility north of Seattle.

The tests saw chief pilot Mike Carriker and engineering test pilot Randy Neville at the controls of the first majority-composite airliner, as it conducted eight runs up and down the 2746m-long (9010ft) runway, gradually building speed.

The two final runs, one to the north and one to the south, saw the long-range twin-engine jetliner lift its nose off the runway before returning it gently to the runway about six seconds later.

Boeing says the tests reached a top speed of 130kts, though radio transmissions between the aircraft, operating at Boeing 001 Experimental, and the Paine Field control tower discussed a top speed of 135kts achieved during the day's taxi tests.

Programme officials gathered at 1430 GMT (630 PT) for the flight readiness review, say those familiar with the meeting where the aircraft was cleared to begin its high-speed taxi runs.

Before the taxi tests commenced, the US FAA granted Boeing the Experimental Airworthiness Certificate for the 787, officially placing it in the Part 91 regulatory classification and clearing the aircraft to commence flight testing at a time of Boeing's choosing.

The three-to-five-hour long first flight of the 787 is now entirely dependent on the weather conditions come Tuesday 15 December.

Boeing policy, in general, calls for "good visibility, no standing water on the runway and gentle or no winds" at the time of first flight.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Tuesday's weather forecasts a 90% chance of rain, with a high temperature near 7C (45F).

787 rotation high-speed taxi 

 © Boeing

Boeing has set a target of commencing first flight of the 787 by the close of 2009, while the airframer hopes to achieve certification and first delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways in the fourth quarter of 2010.

Boeing holds 840 firm orders for the 787 Dreamliner, This number does not reflect the recently announced order for 25 787-8s for United Airlines.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news