FAA approves 787 Dreamliner

Aug 26, 2011

It’s years behind schedule and over budget but Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is now approved to carry passengers.

Federal Aviation Administration officials gave their official seal of approval amid swelling music, a flag parade, and a fly over by Airplane Number 2.

That means Boeing will deliver the first jet to All Nippon Airways of Japan in September.

CEO Jim Albaugh called the Dreamliner the first plane of the 21st century.

"This is going to be an airplane that changes the game.  And I think once our customers get this airplane they’ll forgive us for the fact that we’re a little bit late."

The Dreamliner is three years and four months behind schedule. And some estimates put cost overruns between $12 and $18 billion dollars.

Early problems

Production of the 787 was plagued by a series of mechanical and engineering problems. The most serious, being an in-flight electrical fire in the passenger cabin. That incident further delayed production by about six months.

Even now, the 40 Dreamliners that have been assembled require extensive modifications before they can be delivered to clients.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, called the certification process highly complex due to the Dreamliner’s innovations.

"We had to literally invent new ways to certify a new product. We had to develop 15 different types of 'special conditions.' These are new design regulations to address innovations that Boeing had come up with."

Perks for passengers

A new engine by Rolls Royce and the use of composite materials makes the 787 more fuel efficient and quieter. It also has larger windows, more soothing lighting, and a lower cabin altitude allows for higher humidity. All perks for passengers.

Senator Maria Cantwell was also in a celebratory mood at today's ceremony. She said approval of the Dreamliner is good news for Washington's job market.

"Innovation at Boeing means jobs," she said and added that Boeing officials expect to hire 7,000 more employees in the coming years.

Boeing has orders for more than 800 Dreamliners from 53 customers and is sold out through 2019.