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Originally published Friday, January 15, 2010 at 4:24 PM

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Boeing's 787 Dreamliner ready to fly higher, faster

The 787 Dreamliner has achieved "initial airworthiness" and is ready to begin the second phase of testing with expanded crews on board, Boeing said Friday.

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

The 787 Dreamliner is ready to fly higher and faster now that test pilots have completed the first phase of testing and achieved "initial airworthiness," Boeing said Friday.

The milestone, reached after a month of initial low-speed, low-altitude flight tests, means technicians can join the two test pilots aboard the jets to run computer stations that monitor aircraft systems in the main cabin.

"This is an important step forward," said Scott Fancher, head of the 787 program, in a statement. "We are very pleased with the results we have achieved so far. The airplane has been performing as we expected."

Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said the company deliberately limits flight tests until initial airworthiness is achieved. Now, she said, Dreamliner No. 2 and subsequent test planes will begin flying more.

Dreamliner No. 2 has flown only twice, and on Thursday it returned to Everett to have "particulates" removed from the fuel tank.

Since Dreamliner No. 1's first flight Dec. 15, the program has conducted 15 flights with almost 60 hours of flying, and it has reached an altitude of 30,000 feet and a speed of Mach 0.65.

In the weeks ahead, the team will fly to an altitude of more than 40,000 feet and a speed of Mach 0.85, which is the typical cruise speed of today's airliners.

Subsequent testing will push the airplane beyond expected operational conditions as the pilots do "flutter" tests to detect natural vibration that if amplified by wind or airflow could violently shake the airplane's structure.

After successful completion of flutter tests, which could take another month, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will give Boeing "type inspection authority." At that point, FAA inspectors will join the flight-test crews aboard the jets and the pace of the tests will intensify.

So far, six different pilots have been behind the controls of the 787.

"The results we are seeing in flight match their expectations and the simulations we've run," said Fancher.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or

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