The Seattle Times editorial page gives Boeing and its workers its best wishes on the first flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
THE Boeing 787 Dreamliner is slated to take off today. It is a beautiful airplane. After all the groundhog delays, it will be finally in its element.
This is not the plane that had its rollout in July 2007. That was a fake, a face-saving airplane, a thing not ready to fly. The rivets weren’t even flush with the skin; there was a shortage of the right fasteners and the company used the wrong ones. As soon as the crowd left, workers rolled the plane back into the plant and took it apart.
This is the real one.
That it is two years late can’t be helped now. That there has been a strike — and an argument with the union that called the strike, and a company’s decision to put a second line in South Carolina — also can’t be helped now. Today is not a day to think about that. Today we remember that this airplane was designed by engineers here and assembled by workers here.
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This is Washington’s airplane.
We might call it the Pacific Northwest’s biggest industrial gamble, except that “gamble” is an unfair word. Gambling is the taking of risks for fun, and that’s not the spirit of this airplane at all. Every bolt, panel, wire and chip in it has been proposed, reviewed, modeled, priced, contracted, tracked, assembled and inspected.
The test pilots who will run the Dreamliner through aborted takeoffs, tail-strike takeoffs, engine-failure takeoffs and airborne stalls are not doing it to be aviation cowboys, but to shave physical risk down to absolute minimum.
The Dreamliner is also an economic risk, though we don’t think the risk is as big as it looks. Customers are clamoring to get their hands on it. The remaining risk is mostly how smoothly the company can assemble it — a thing it had better not mess up.
But that is a thought for later. Today we think only of the plane, and its wanting to fly.