The 787-9 Takes to the Skies

Boeing 787-9 - Alex Kwanten

Flight testing on the 787-9 commenced last Tuesday with a successful and uneventful  four-hour first flight over Washington state.  After the conclusion of the flight, senior project pilot Mike Byran referred to the event as “a no -squawk flight,” with no unexpected issues arising in-flight.

The second variant of the 787 to be produced, the 787-9 is 20 feet longer than the 787-8 and can accommodate about 40 more passengers in typical configurations.  It also has a somewhat longer projected range.

The 787-9 uses almost all of the same systems as the 787-8, but has a few improvements baked in. Inside, the stretch includes a reinforced structure and a higher MTOW (553,000 lb vs. 502,000 for the -8).  Outside, in addition to a new laminar flow control device integrated into the vertical stabilizer, the 787-9 introduces the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 “package C” engine, newly certified and said to produce a 1% fuel burn improvement over the in-service “package B.”  The C will soon be available on the 787-8 as well.  The 787-9 will also benefit from the PIP II packaged for the GEnx-1B on GE-powered variants.

Two points about the 787-9 are very significant from the perspective of the cargo market:

1. The 787-9 offers more belly capacity than a 777-200ER, despite being physically smaller (though not by much), and it can carry that cargo farther than the 777-200ER or the A330-200/300, though the A330-300 has slightly more capacity.  That might also mean that on routes operated by these other aircraft that require weight restrictions, the 787-9 might open more belly capacity for reliable use.

2. The 787-9 will be the basis for the anticipated 787-9F. In an interview this past June, Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President Mike Bair stated that the -9 would be the platform for any future 787 freighter, and that it may someday supplant the 767-300ERF in the lineup, though that day is some time in the future.

Boeing is reportedly planning a nine-month test program for the 787-9, leveraging the data accumulated in the many months of testing the 787-8.  The first 787-9 was seen in lengthy flight testing around Washington state last week and the aggressive schedule will continue, with a second test aircraft expected to come online next either late next month or in early November.  When the test program is completed and the plane is certified, the initial two test aircraft will be destined for Air New Zealand.

The 787-9 currently has 388 orders from more than 20 airlines and lessors, including unidentified customers.

To see a larger version of the above photo of the 787-9, click on the photo.

Photographer: Alex Kwanten

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