| GEO World|
| Two years late, Boeing's Dreamliner takes to the skies|
| Updated at: 0701 PST, Wednesday, December 16, 2009|
EVERETT: More than two years late, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner jet took to the skies Tuesday, in a critical milestone for the problem-plagued aircraft seen as key to the US aerospace giant's future.
Under dreary skies, the Dreamliner took off at 10:27 am (1827 GMT) to loud applause from those gathered at Paine Field near Boeing's plant in the western state of Washington, returning just over three hours later to Seattle's Boeing Field.
The eventual first flight of the revolutionary new "green" passenger jet followed more than two years of production problems that pushed back delivery of the first plane to Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways to late 2010.
Boeing is hanging its future hopes on the plane -- its first new model in over a decade -- which draws on huge advances in aviation technology and is capable of flying long-haul routes with up to 20 percent less fuel.
The fuel efficiency is largely down to the fact that up to half the mid-size, twin-aisle 787 Dreamliner is made of lightweight composite materials, such as carbon fiber-reinforced resin, the company said.
By contrast, its predecessor, the Boeing 777, which made its first flight in 1994, was composed of 12 percent composite material.
The Dreamliner, wearing the Boeing test-flight blue livery with 787 emblazoned on its tail, passed its final functional tests Saturday to be cleared for Tuesday's flight over Puget Sound and Washington state.
For three hours and eight minutes, captains Mike Carriker and Randy Neville tested key systems, such as the environmental control systems, hydraulics, structures and engines, and stability.