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Boeing 787 advancing toward test flight by July 1

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EVERETT, Wash. – The first Boeing 787 is in the final stages of production and should be ready as planned for the long-delayed first test flight before July 1, Boeing Co. officials say.

EVERETT, Wash. – The first Boeing 787 is in the final stages of production and should be ready as planned for the long-delayed first test flight before July 1, Boeing Co. officials say.

About 60 percent of the material needed to certify the 787 as an airplane and to certify assembly processes has been submitted to the Federal Aviation Administration, chief project engineer Michael P. Delaney told reporters.

Compared with the pace of work toward certification of other models, “this is far superior to anything we’ve ever done before,” Delaney said.

The first model is now in the paint shop, the last stop before it is rolled out of Boeing’s huge widebody aircraft assembly plant here. Delaney said the first test flight will be three to 10 days after that.

The first test flight was planned for late 2007 with deliveries to begin in May 2008, but a series of delays resulted from four production snarls and an eight-week Machinists union strike last fall.

Boeing officials would not give a tentative date for the first flight, only that it is planned in the second quarter, with takeoff from Paine Field south of Everett and landing about three hours later at King County International Airport, known as Boeing Field, in south Seattle.

Six planes — four with Rolls Royce engines and two with General Electric engines –are being assembled for about 8 1/2 months of test flights, about two months fewer than for previous models, followed by FAA airworthiness certification for commercial service and the first delivery in the first quarter of 2010.

The time savings is chiefly in more efficient installation and removal of special gear for the test flights, Rasor said.

Separately, The Seattle Times reported that Boeing has announced improvements to the 737 that include more overhead passenger room and more efficient engines.

The cabin change means passengers should be able to stand up without hunching beneath luggage bins while getting into and out of seats. The more efficient engines were developed by CFM, a joint venture of GE and Snecma of France.