After more than two years of delay, Boeing‘s 787 Dreamliner took flight today over Washington state”s Puget Sound. The aircraft lifted off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington and landed in Boeing Field in Seattle.

To the pleasure of everyone in attendance and everyone involved in the project, today’s flight (test plane number ZA001) went perfectly.

Under gray, overcast skies, ground control cleared chief pilot Scott Carriker and co-pilot Randy Neville to taxi to the end of runway 16R shortly after 10 a.m. Pacific time. The crowd cheered as the planed turned onto the 9,10-foot runway. As news helicopters and a red helicopter fitted with an IMAX camera circled overlead, ZA001 taxied past the crowds. After stopping at the end of runway 34L the pilots made their final systems checks prior to being cleared for takeoff.

At 10:29 a.m. ZA001 was airborne.

787 takeoff

Pilot Carriker banked to the west over Puget Sound on a flight path that took the plane out over the Pacific Ocean and back several times before heading for Boeing Field in Seattle. The flight is expected to last 5 hours and 25 minutes. Thousands of sensors will relay data in real time to engineers on the ground as the pilots put the 787 through numerous maneuvers.

The first data points being gathered today will be fairly easy going by flight test standards with no unusual maneuvers expected. But eventually the test pilots will have to embark on riskier flights including flutter testing where they try to induce harmonics in the flight surfaces to make sure catastrophic failure of the wings or tail do not occur. They will also tape foam on the flying surfaces to simulate the added weight and drag of ice in order to confirm safe flight characteristics during potential icing conditions.

Today’s flight launches a new phase of testing that will continue for nine months and include six planes. Boeing says it will be a busy schedule to fit in all the necessary hours of testing before delivering the first airplane to Japan’s All Nippon Airways in 2011. Boeing has more than 800 orders — totaling $140 billion — for the plane, which is the first to use all-composite construction and all-electric systems.

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