Boeing's 787-9 Dreamliner, a larger version of the company's original 787-8 jetliner, made its first test flight Tuesday.
The 787-9 jet completed a 5-hour, 16-minute maiden flight when it landed at 4:18 pm PT at Boeing Field in Seattle. Some 20 feet longer than its predecessor, the 787-9 can accommodate up to 290 passengers, 40 more than the 787-8 jetliner.
"Today's first flight marks a significant milestone for our team, including our partners," Boeing CEO Ray Conner said in a statement. Boeing has said Air Zealand will be the first recipient of the new aircraft, sometime in mid-2014.
The jet reached an altitude of 20,400 feet and an airspeed of about 288 miles per hour during today's flight, which tested the aircraft's systems and structures. Boeing said the jetliner's onboard equipment transmitted real-time data to the company's flight-test team in Seattle.
"We accomplished a lot in this flight, and it went really well," 787-9 senior project pilot Mike Bryan said in a statement.
On the specifications front, the 787-9 has a leg up on its predecessor, flying roughly 300 nautical miles farther while burning 20 percent less fuel. Boeing built the 787 with carbon-fiber composites instead of aluminum, which saves substantial weight.
However, the Dreamliner project has also been marked by periodic setbacks. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded the 787 for fourth months after smoke and fire problems related to its auxiliary lithium ion batteries surfaced in January. Also, earlier in this summer, All Nippon Airways discovered wireless problems with the Dreamliner's fire extinguishing units for the aircraft's engines.