Although Dreamliner No. 2 is painted in the colors of All Nippon Airways, which had originally signed up to take the airplane, it won’t end up going to that airline.
Following the latest delays and the desire of many airlines to delay the deliveries they had originally scheduled, Boeing renegotiated and shuffled the delivery schedule. In those discussions, all of the test airplane customers chose to switch to production aircraft.
In ANA’s case, one motivation in switching from a test to a production Dreamliner is that the airline will get the airplane sooner.
After the test flight program ends early next year, the six test planes must go to San Antonio for extensive refurbishment. All the test equipment has to be removed and replaced with passenger interiors. And any late design changes to the aircraft — some spurred by what’s learned in flight test — must also be incorporated into the test airframes before they enter service. By taking an early production delivery slot given up by another customer that wants to defer expenses during the current slowdown, ANA gets its airplane faster.
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But that does leave Boeing with a problem: finding homes for the six test airplanes, none of which now has an assigned customer.
These airplanes are all heavier than the airplanes that will follow and lack some of the design changes introduced since they were assembled. Airlines like all their airplanes to be alike, so these 787s aren’t too attractive a buy, even when offered at what will be a very low price. More likely, they’ll go to rich, private customers who want a customized VIP jet — and aren’t too concerned about a little extra fuel burn.
Video of the rollout courtesy Liz Matzelle.