|The first S.C.-made Dreamliner rests on the runway at Charleston International Airport on Wednesday. (Photo/Matt Tomsic)|
By Matt Tomsic
Published May 24, 2012
In the skies above South Carolina, Boeing Co. pilots heard familiar chatter: Other pilots hopping on the 787’s frequency, saying they’re excited to see the first flight of a Lowcountry-built Dreamliner.
“That theme has been there the whole time,” said Randy Neville, the 787 chief model pilot after taking South Carolina’s Dreamliner through its first test flight. “Anybody that sees the airplane just gets so excited.”
Pilots also performed ground checks and did two taxis down the runway — including a low-speed abort — before taking off and flying over the Atlantic Ocean, where most of the flight occurred, said Boeing assistant chief production pilot Tim Berg, who flew the plane Wednesday.
Berg said they flew five approaches to Charleston, and the flight matched the pre-flight plan.
Mike Sinnett, chief project engineer for the 787 program, said the Dreamliner’s flight proves the plane is everything the aerospace giant promised.
“I’ve been impressed with the quality of the airplane, the quality of the build, the quality of the engineering here,” Sinnett said, referring to workers at Boeing South Carolina.
Boeing is now addressing any issues found during the flight before the 787 travels to Fort Worth, Texas, to be painted, Boeing South Carolina vice president and general manager Jack Jones said. After painting, Air India will check the plane and take it for a test flight. Jones said the next two milestones are paint and delivery.
With the first delivery nearing, Boeing is closing a deal that began in 2009 when the company announced plans to open a second 787 line in North Charleston.
“We got the phone call the day after the board meeting in October 2009,” said Marco Cavazzoni, who has been with Boeing South Carolina since the groundbreaking a month after the 2009 phone call. “Obviously, when you do something that has never been done before in history, you have a lot of supporters and some who doubted it.”
Boeing had a good plan for South Carolina and paid attention to the details and fundamentals, said Cavazzoni, the vice president and general manager of final assembly and delivery for Boeing South Carolina.
“Today, we see the effect of that,” he said after the first flight.
Talking about his time with Boeing here, Cavazzoni stretched his hands about a yard apart. On one hand you have magical, he said, and on the other you have miracle, “and a lot of history in between.”