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Boeing marks Dec. 15 for first 787 flight, sunny day wanted

Boeing marks Dec. 15 for first 787 flight, sunny day wanted

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Boeing has picked next Tuesday for the 787 Dreamliner's first flight. But don't bet on it: the date is tentative based on the weather assuming no last minute technical glitches. Rain and snow showers are forecast next week for the Seattle area.

Boeing said tonight that it has successfully completed the final gauntlet test on the first Boeing 787 (ZA001) and that the initial "window" for the maiden flight of a 787 is 10 a.m. PT Dec. 15. By "window," Boeing means a tentative time that is largely dependent on the weather or last minute technical problems.

"We will not name a date certain, but rather a window of days for the flight to occur, recognizing that a number of circumstances, weather not the least of which, can pull the day forward or push it back," Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx told me this afternoon before the tonight's announcement.

Indeed, weather would seem the biggest obstacle. Weather.com's 10-day forecast for Everett, Wash. is rain or snow showers for all but Monday next week. Tuesday is Dec. 15. Everett is the location of Paine Field where ZA001 will take off, representing the maiden voyage for the 787.

The plane is slated to fly for four hours and land at 2 p.m. PT at Boeing Field in Seattle.

Paine Field credit: Paine Field Airport

All that remains before the flight are taxi and flight readiness tests and receipt of documentation from the FAA. The gauntlet test just completed simulated an actual flight. Also, Boeing said 10 days ago it needed until now to validate the side of body repair which involved reinforcing a small area where the wing attaches to the wingbox. Boeing said tonight the test validated the repair.

787 in static airframe credit: Boeing Commercial Airplanes

"We are very pleased with the results of this final functional testing. With the successful completion of static testing and this functional testing, our focus now moves to first flight,"  Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program said in a press release.

Boeing also has sent out media invitations that include watching the first flight and tours of Boeing facilities. Another option is watching a live webcast. The fluid nature of first flight timing are reflected in Boeing's urging that media sign up for text messages should the schedule move.

I have never attended a NASA Space Shuttle launch, but I think I know how it feels. See you in Everett.

Complete coverage of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner on SmartPlanet:

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure