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Originally published December 4, 2009 at 12:06 AM | Page modified December 4, 2009 at 12:02 PM

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Boeing aims for two 787s to fly by year-end

Boeing has set a new target date of Friday, Dec. 18th, for the 787's initial flight, and a second plane is set to take to the air just 10 days after the first, according to a person close to the new and much-delayed jet program.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

The date for the 787 Dreamliner's first flight has inched closer, and Boeing hopes to fly not one but two 787s by year-end.

According to a person close to the jet program, Boeing has set a new target date of Friday, Dec. 18, for the initial flight — four days earlier than its previous plan.

And Dreamliner No. 2 is set to take to the air just 10 days after the first, the person said.

After more than two years of delays, excitement is growing among those working on the new airplane, who now anticipate a pre-Christmas flight and look forward to a New Year test-flight program that could erase the memory of 2009's embarrassing glitches.

The schedule's acceleration follows the successful retesting of the wing last week, which validated the fix for a structural flaw that caused a test failure last May and the consequent suspension of the planned June first flight.

That wing test was performed on an airplane inside the factory that is rigged up for structural-load testing, a plane that will never fly. The same fix for the wing-joint flaw has been installed on Dreamliners No. 1 and No. 2.

On Monday, Dreamliner No. 1 was moved to the fuel dock on Paine Field and the wings were filled with jet fuel.

Late on Tuesday evening, a test pilot restarted the jet's Rolls-Royce engines for the first time since the summer, sending copious clouds of white smoke billowing into the frigid night air.

Rolls-Royce spokesman Mark Thompson said that was the burning off of a film of oil that coated and protected the internal engine components during the months of disuse.

In the days ahead, the test pilots will run the engines constantly and test all the airplane systems running under the jet's own power. The tests will include simulated flight maneuvers.

Afterward, the airplane will move on to taxi tests on the ground, moving first at low speed and eventually at higher speeds approaching takeoff velocity — enough to lift the nose wheels just off the runway.

That high-speed taxi test should mark the eve of first flight.

When that long-postponed flight comes, the plan is to take off from Everett and land at Boeing Field some five hours later.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

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