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Boeing 787 Dreamliner has first flight in U.S. with passengers

United's flight from Houston to Chicago is a first for the long-delayed Boeing 787. The airline is slated to use the plane at LAX on flights to Japan in 2013.

November 04, 2012|By Hugo Martín, Los Angeles Times
  • A United Airlines Boeing 787 takes off for its first scheduled commercial flight from Houston to Chicago.
A United Airlines Boeing 787 takes off for its first scheduled commercial… (Eric Kayne / AP Photo )

The Dreamliner, with passengers, has finally landed.

United Airlines landed its inaugural domestic flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft Sunday morning at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, becoming the first U.S. carrier to fly the composite-plastic-fuselage aircraft.

The twin-aisle plane, delayed more than three years by production problems at Boeing Co., was designed to be about 20% more fuel efficient and less costly to maintain than similar-size planes. Half the plane is made of strong and light composite materials, including the fuselage and wings, instead of metal.

United is scheduled to bring the Dreamliner to Los Angeles for daily nonstop flights to Narita, Japan, beginning Jan. 3, and add nonstop flights to Shanghai starting March 30.

Although the aircraft can hold as many as 290 passengers, the configuration United will use for these flights will carry a maximum of 219.

Boeing said the plane offers great comfort for passengers, including dimmable windows and LED lighting that changes in different phases of the flights.

But with all that high-tech there was one thing missing — Wi-Fi.

United Chief Executive Jeff Smisek told reporters that Boeing was working with federal aviation authorities to certify communications equipment to maintain broadband on a composite aircraft, a process that could take until 2014 to complete.

United has been flying the Dreamliner on noncommercial flights since September to complete a federal certification process required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Although Flight 1116 from Houston to Chicago was the first flight of the Dreamliner by a U.S. airline, All Nippon Airways was the first to put the Dreamliner in the air with paying customers, in October 2011.

"If you want to be the world's leading airline, you need the world's leading airplane, and this is it," Smisek told the Chicago Tribune.

The plane has been beset by other glitches.

Shortly after delivery of the first planes, All Nippon reported a problem with the landing gear. In March, Boeing had to slow Dreamliner deliveries because the sheets of laminated composite materials that make up the plane's body were separating. In July, a 787 was blamed for starting a grass fire during preflight testing in South Carolina.

hugo.martin@latimes.com

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