Boeing's new 777-200LR yesterday successfully completed its first flight, taking off from the Everett plant at 10 a.m. and landing three hours later at Boeing Field.

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Piloted by Capt. Suzanna Darcy-Hennemann, Boeing’s new 777-200LR yesterday successfully completed its first flight, taking off from the Everett plant at 10 a.m. and landing three hours later at Boeing Field.

When the airplane enters service with Pakistan International Airlines in January, Boeing will at last have a jet to match the flying range of Airbus’ A340-500.

But surpassing the Airbus mark will take longer.

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Although Boeing touts the new 777 derivative as “the world’s longest range commercial airplane,” all five 777-200LRs on order, including the one that flew yesterday, have a projected range of 8,660 nautical miles. That effectively matches rather than surpasses the range of the Airbus jet, cited as 8,650 nautical miles.

Given the difficulty of precisely comparing range calculations based on different seat configurations, that’s no real difference.

Boeing’s claim is based on a version of the jet with auxiliary fuel tanks that stretch the range to 9,420 nautical miles. So far, no customers have ordered this version.

“All the superlatives we use to describe the airplane as the longest-range airplane in the world assume the use of auxiliary fuel tanks,” said Boeing spokesman Marc Birtel. “Without auxiliary tanks, the 777-200LR has equivalent range to the A340-500.”

Frank Santoni, Boeing’s chief 777 program pilot and co-pilot on yesterday’s flight, said last week that performance enhancements achieved on the earlier 777-300ER program meant current customers don’t need the extra tanks. If a future customer wants the added range, he said, the jet with tanks installed will require a little more certification testing.

Boeing employees watch the jet taxi before takeoff. Though it matches the range of the Airbus A340-500, Boeing touts it as “the world’s longest-range commercial airplane.”

“Until we have that requirement, we are not going to look at auxiliary tanks,” he said.

The small size of the ultra-long-range jet market means that could be awhile.

The version with auxiliary tanks would have a list price of $215 million to $230 million, and could fly routes such as Singapore to New York City or Miami.

So far, the 777-200LR has only two customers; and the second, EVA Airways of Taiwan, appears less than fully committed to the airplane.

Last week, trade magazine Flight International quoted Lee Jen-Ling, EVA’s senior vice president, as saying the airline was evaluating whether ultra-long-range services are financially viable. Lee said EVA might switch its order for three 777-200LRs to other versions of the 777.

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

Air France orders 4 Boeing 777s

Air France has ordered four 777-300ER passenger jets, Boeing said yesterday.

Boeing said Air France — now part of Air France-KLM, the world’s largest airline — had exercised four options on an earlier contract, in a deal worth $920 million at list prices.

The carrier already operates eight of the midsize 777-300ER jets.

The Associated Press