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Boeing's larger 787-9 Dreamliner makes first flight

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Boeing's 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft took to the skies Tuesday in a maiden test flight, a larger version of the company's original 787-8 jetliner.

The 787-9 lifted off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington state at 11:02 am local time (1802 GMT). The test flight is expected to last between four and five hours.

The plane is the second member of the Dreamliner family of mid-size, long-haul aircraft, designed to use 20 percent less fuel than other airplanes of their size.

Compared with the 787-8, the 787-9 has a range that is about 600 kilometers (373 miles) longer, at a maximum of 15,750 kilometers (9,787 miles).

It can carry 250-290 passengers, up from 210-250 passengers on the initial Dreamliner, which entered commercial service with All Nippon Airways in October 2011.

The 787-9 is expected to enter service in mid-2014 with launch customer Air New Zealand.

Scott Hamilton, an analyst based in Seattle, noted that Boeing long has introduced new models of existing aircraft.

"The first flight of the 787-9 ordinarily would be a little consequence," Hamilton said.

"But because of the painful birth of the lead variant, the 787-8, and its troubled early service life that included a three and a half month grounding, the 787-9 will have greater scrutiny to see if Boeing has the program troubles behind it."

The 787-8's development program ran three years behind schedule. All 787s in service in January were grounded worldwide over problems with overheated batteries. Since the grounding was lifted in late April, there have been a series of problems with customers' planes.

Boeing says the problems are typical for a new aircraft.

To date, Boeing has delivered 84 787-8s to 14 clients and has orders for 852. The Dreamliner's main rival is the A350 of European aircraft maker Airbus.

Shares in Dow member Boeing were up 1.2 percent at $117.11 in late-afternoon trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130917/boeings-larger-787-9-dreamliner-makes-first-flight