Air New Zealand's first Dreamliner rolled out of the hangar in Seattle today - a stunning debutant meeting the public eye in sheer black with a huge white fern draped along her side.

She was famously late for her date with Air New Zealand - production delays pushing delivery back from as long ago as late-2010. But with the aircraft's final paint job completed in recent days, and the internal cabin fittings now to be done along with flight tests and certification, Air New Zealand expects to take delivery in July.

The plane is painted black with a white fern extending along the back half of the fuselage and the airline's insignia koru in white on the tail.

Air New Zealand's other nine Dash-9s will be painted white with a black tail.


Boeing's paint operations manager Pat Covello said the unique all black colour scheme made no practical difference in the handling of the aircraft. "It's just that no one has done it before."

Air New Zealand had a Boeing 777-300 aircraft painted black in 2012. Covello said that suggestions black paint could affect an aircraft's performance were unfounded.

"When we painted the 777 that way, there was a lot of conversations about heat issues around the paint, but nothing came of it," he said. "It's really just about how customers want their brand to look."

The national carrier's debutant Dreamliner will become the first of the 787-9 series to enter commercial service.

The 787-9 - or Dash-9 - can carry more passengers and fly further than the Dash-8, which is already in service with many airlines.

It was delays to the Dash-8 programme that set back production of the Dash-9's - Air New Zealand's first was initially scheduled for delivery at the end of 2010.

Chief flight operations officer Captain David Morgan attended the unveiling ceremony in Seattle.

Boeing spokesperson Patty Rhodes said the Dash-9 would be capable of carrying 280 passengers 15,000km with about 20 per cent better fuel economy than the comparable 767.


The aircraft opens up opportunities for new routes, though Air New Zealand will start their black Dash-9 on transtasman services. The Dash-9s are expected to be used on Shanghai and Tokyo routes.

* The writer travelled to Seattle as a guest of Air New Zealand.