Talk about early retirement.
It’s been just a couple of weeks short of two years since Boeing’s first 787 Dreamliner lifted off for its initial flight from Everett’s Paine Field, but that same plane shortly after 9 a.m. today took off from Seattle’s Boeing Field for what could be its final flight.
The aircraft, ZA001, was headed for the desert at Palmdale, Calif., where it will lose its Rolls-Royce engines and be put into indefinite storage.
The first of what Boeing hopes will be hundreds more Dreamliners was one of six planes in Boeing’s test fleet. With its job accomplished, the aircraft is being decommissioned.
The FAA certified the Dreamliner for commercial use late last summer, and Boeing delivered its first production Dreamliner to All Nippon Airways, the launch customer, this fall.
Boeing originally had planned to refurbish all of its test aircraft and sell them to airlines or private buyers, but the company decided that since the aircraft has been modified so many times to incorporate improvements, the plane should be retired instead of reused.
The second of Boeing’s test aircraft is in North Charleston, S.C. where it is being used to show new assembly line workers there how to put together a Dreamliner.
The third test plane is being refurbished and equipped with an airliner interior (the test aircraft initially were equipped with test equipment and consoles for monitoring performance). That plane will begin a world tour this month that will take it to dozens of airports around the world to show airline customers what they’ve bought and to create local media buzz about the Dreamliner.
ZA001, the world’s first composite-bodied airliner, likely won’t sit in the desert forever. Ultimately, the plane may be donated to a museum — the Smithsonian and Seattle’s Museum of Flight come to mind — to join other game-changing aircraft.