Boeing has rolled out the first of its 787-9 planes destined for launch customer Air New Zealand.
The stretched version of the plane - which will be initially used as a test aircraft - has been completed at Boeing's manufacturing and assembly plant near Seattle in Washington state. Work is nearing completion on the second and third 787-9, one of which will be the first to join Air New Zealand's fleet around the middle of next year.
The 787-9 is the next Dreamliner and is 6m longer and capable of carrying up to 40 more passengers than the earlier model 787-8. It also can fly an extra 555km than the earlier plane which has been hit by a series of technical and safety issues since entering service in October 2011, years behind schedule. Boeing said yesterday the second and third 787-9s were in final assembly.
Air New Zealand has said the first of its 787s will replace replace older aircraft flying to Asia, Western Australia and holiday destinations in the Pacific.
The airline will fit the plane out with new slimline seats in the economy cabin and will have premium economy and business premier seating. The 787-9 can carry between 250 and 290 passengers but the configuration, crucial for passenger comfort, has not been announced.
Dreamliners use carbon fibre composite material extensively to cut down on weight and add strength to their fuselage and wings. The aircraft promises fuel savings of 20 per cent compared with planes of similar size.