Air New Zealand gets 1st 'stretch' Dreamliner

Air New Zealand gets 1st 'stretch' Dreamliner

Credit: Getty Images

An Air New Zealand 787-9 Dreamliner sits in its stall at the Boeing Delivery Center, July 9, 2014 in Everett, Washington. The 787-9 Dreamliner was the first delivery of the long-haul version of the 787 featuring a fuselage 20 feet longer than the 787-8.

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by Ben Mutzabaugh, USA TODAY

khou.com

Posted on July 10, 2014 at 8:19 AM

Air New Zealand today (July 10) will become the first airline in the world to fly away with the "stretch" version of Boeing's Dreamliner – the 787-9.

Air New Zealand is the launch customer for Boeing's latest – and so far biggest – variant of its new-age Dreamliner. The carrier officially took delivery of the jet this week near Boeing's assembly line facility in Everett, Wash. Aviation enthusiasts also got their first up-close look at the jet this week, first via a launch party on Tuesday that drew about 1,000 Boeing 787 workers and then from an official media event on Wednesday.

Today, sometime around 10 a.m. ET, the jet is expected to depart Boeing's production facility in Washington state for Air New Zealand's main base in Auckland, where the 787-9 will be readied to enter commercial service for the airline. It is the first of 10 Dreamliners ordered by the carrier.

"We are proud to be the launch customer for the 787-9," Air New Zealand CFO Rob McDonald says in a statement. "We believe it will be a game-changer for Air New Zealand, with increased levels of fuel efficiency and passenger comfort. We look forward to inviting our customers on board to experience the aircraft and all of its benefits for themselves."

Air New Zealand's official launch of the 787-9 is scheduled for October, when the airline deploys it on a route between Auckland and the city of Perth on Australia's west coast. However, Australian Business Traveller reports the airline is likely to first ease the jet into service on shorter routes between Auckland and the eastern Australia cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. In November, Air New Zealand plans to put its 787-9s on routes to Tokyo and Shanghai.

Boeing's 787-9 is about 20 feet longer and will carry 40 more passengers and fly an additional 450 nautical miles as compared to the current 787-8 model of the Dreamliner. In typical configurations, the 787-8 carries 210 to 250 passengers, while the 787-9 will carry 250 to 290.

The 787-9 will eventually be out-sized by Boeing's 787-10 variant of the jet, though that model is not expected to enter final assembly and flight testing until 2017. Delivery to airline customers is targeted to come in 2018.

Until then, the 787-9 is Boeing's biggest version Dreamliner. Air New Zealand's will be configured to hold 302 passengers.

That set-up includes 18 lie-flat seats in a "Business Premier zone. There also will be a separate 21-seat Premium Economy laid out in a 2-3-2 seating arrangement as well as 263 in the standard coach section. The carrier's economy section will include 14 rows that can be reserved in its unique Skycouch seating.

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