In its headquarters in Everett near Seattle, Boeing Co. handed over the key for its first 787 wide-body jet to All Nippon Airways on Monday after years of delays, marking a long-awaited milestone in the history of commercial flight.
Thousands of workers gathered for the ceremony at Paine Field, outside the building where the planes are assembled, with many finding shelter from the rain under the wings of two yet-to-be-delivered 787s. The actual first ANA 787 was nearby at the Future of Flight aviation center, where it was being prepared for a reception Monday night and its flight to Japan on Tuesday.
The plane goes into service in November.
"You have no idea what you've achieved," Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Jim Albaugh told the crowd. "It's not often in a career or a lifetime we have a chance to do something like this."
The new jet is the first commercial airliner built using carbon fiber - a strong, lightweight, high-tech plastic - rather than the typical aluminum skin. It was supposed to be flying passengers three years ago but has been beset by production and design problems.
Airlines have ordered more than 800 of the plane that will compete with the Airbus A350.
The use of carbon fiber allowed for several other breakthroughs, including larger windows with electronic dimming rather than shades, and pressurization that's more akin to what passengers feel at ground level. Without corrosion-prone aluminum, cabin humidity levels can be set higher, easing dry noses and throats. The lighter jet will be quieter and use about 20 percent less fuel than a comparably sized aluminum aircraft.