Boeing has begun final assembly of the first 787-9 Dreamliner, the newest member of the super-efficient 787 jet family that the company says will carry 40 more passengers an additional 300 nautical miles while using 20 percent less fuel than similarly sized airplanes.
The Dreamliner 787-9’s fuselage is 20 feet longer than the 787-8, which started operating in September 2011.
First flight of the 787-9 is scheduled for the second half of 2013, with first delivery to launch customer Air New Zealand set for early 2014. Some 20 customers around the world have ordered 355 787-9s, accounting for 40 percent of all 787 orders, Boeing says.
The new aircraft keeps many of the 787-8 design features such as large, dimmable windows, large stow bins, LED lighting, higher humidity, a lower cabin altitude, cleaner air and a smoother ride, the company says.
Boeing will build the first three 787-9s on its Temporary Surge Line in Everett, Wash. The company says this will allow for smoother integration of the 787-9 into the production system while continuing to ramp up production across the 787 program.
Regulators in the US, Japan, India and Europe grounded the fuel-efficient Dreamliner in January following a lithium-ion battery fire on a Japan Airlines plane in Boston and an emergency landing by an All Nippon Airways jet in Japan.
In April, the FAA approved the Dreamliner to resume commercial flights after Boeing improved the jet’s battery system.
More than half of the 787 fleet are now back in service, Industry Week reports. But the magazine says Japan Airlines found a fault with a modified Dreamliner earlier this week, a day after it resumed full operation of the 787 aircraft.