Boeing's newest, largest Dreamliner completes first flight

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (Reuters) - Boeing Co's BA.N newest and largest Dreamliner model, the 787-10, successfully made its first flight on Friday, kicking off a test program for the high-tech jet.

The plane, which sells for $312.8 million at list price and rounds out a family of three carbon-fiber composite Dreamliners, flew well, the pilots said.

“We had a great flight,” Captain Tim Berg said at a news conference after the flight. The plane “performed exactly like we thought it would.”

The flight was one of three initial voyages on Friday, joining the Airbus AIR.PA A319neo jetliner and the Antonov An-132D, a light turboprop military transport developed with Saudi Arabia.

Boeing’s 787-10 is being built at Boeing’s factory in North Charleston, South Carolina, due to its large size. The facility is Boeing’s only jetliner assembly factory outside of Washington state and, in contrast to the others, is not unionized.

Last month, the new plane provided a dramatic backdrop for President Donald Trump’s visit to the Boeing factory, where he promised to boost U.S. manufacturing and punish companies for moving jobs overseas.

Companies in Japan, China, Italy, Sweden, France and Britain produce many of the 787's major components, such as wings, fuselage sections and the rudder. Airlines can choose engines from General Electric Co GE.N of the United States, or Britain's Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc RR.L.

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The first 787-10 took off at 9:38 a.m. EDT (1338 GMT) and landed at 2:35 pm EDT.

The plane is a second and final “stretch,” of the original 787-8, which debuted in 2011. It is 18 feet (5.5 meters) longer than the 787-9 and seats 330 passengers, 40 more than the 787-9 and 88 more than the 787-8.

The 787 has been a top seller, with 1,200 firm orders as airlines use it to open new routes between smaller cities that can be profitable with the fuel-efficient 787.

Airbus competes against the 787-10 with its A330neo, a remake of its older, aluminum-hulled A330 equipped with fuel-efficient engines. Both jets are optimized for shorter flights compared with other mid-sized, twin-aisle planes. After brisk initial sales, orders for both have slowed, with Airbus selling just over 220 of its A330neo.

So far, the 787-10 has booked 149 orders from nine customers, about 12 percent of the total of firm orders. The mid-sized 787-9 has captured just over half the total.

After spending 2017 in testing, the 787-10 is expected to enter service with airlines in 2018.

Reporting by Alwyn Scott in New York, Harriet McLeod in North Charleston and Tim Hepher in Paris; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Lisa Shumaker