After three years of setbacks and delays, thousands of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner workers in Everett on Monday enjoyed at last a moment of...

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After three years of setbacks and delays, thousands of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner workers in Everett on Monday enjoyed at last a moment of deliverance.

Dennis Perez, a machinist apprenticeship coordinator for Boeing in Portland, woke up at 2 a.m. Monday to get to Everett for the celebration of the first Dreamliner delivery to All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan.

“This is a big moment,” Perez said. “I wanted to see the first plane delivered, because it means we’re going to take off and orders are going to come in.”

Dave Angel, an engineer who tracks changes to Dreamliners on the assembly line, said that only last weekend did Boeing “freeze” the engineering on that first jet — no more changes. ANA needed its airplane.

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Angel, a 35-year Boeing veteran who spent his first three decades working on the defense side of the company, said he used to think the commercial-airplane division had the easy job. Now he knows better. Multiple modifications and changes have kept his team busy, especially over the past three years.

“It’s hard work. It takes real effort to roll them out,” Angel said. “I’m impressed.”

In speeches from a rain-drenched outdoor stage, Boeing executives repeatedly acknowledged the difficulties that preceded the first delivery of the world’s first commercial airliner made mostly from carbon fiber-reinforced plastic composites, rather than aluminum.

But they declared the airplane a technological marvel that will be worth the wait.

“The journey was longer and harder than any of us thought,” said Scott Fancher, head of the Dreamliner program. “But you have made the Dreamliner a reality.”

Pat Shanahan, Boeing’s head of airplane programs, said the jet’s development was “neither easy or smooth … but breakthroughs never are.”

Shanahan called the Dreamliner “an incredible flying machine” that will bring “a new era of aircraft performance.”

He also praised Boeing’s creation of “a global production system that will produce widebody aircraft at rates this industry has never before seen.”

Boeing needs to build a couple thousand airplanes to ensure a return on its massive investment — an estimated $32 billion and counting. Program leaders plan to ramp up production to 10 jets a month by the end of 2013.

“This team is up to the undertaking of building thousands more,” Shanahan said.

Jim Albaugh, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the Dreamliner represents the biggest change in how airplanes are made since the introduction of the first jet airplane, the 707, more than half a century ago.

The Dreamliner, he said, is “something big, something bold … something that will be around long after we’re gone.”

In the most poetic language of the day, ANA Chief Executive Shinichiro Ito expressed “my utmost respect and my deepest gratitude” to the Boeing workers arrayed before him.

“We will now carefully and lovingly take this plane to Japan … and send her off to fly in the great wide world,” Ito promised. “I cannot wait to see the day when the skies of the world are filled with 787s.”

ANA will have its first passenger flight, a special charter from Tokyo to Hong Kong, on Oct. 26. Before then, on Oct. 14, it will take delivery of its second Dreamliner.

Listening to the executives in the pouring rain, the thoughts of chief pilot Mike Carriker, who flew the first Dreamliner flight in 2009, turned to the Bahamas.

His next mission for Boeing is to fly there as soon as possible, seeking out hot and humid conditions for a test flight of a Dreamliner powered with a GEnx engine, which still must complete certification.

(The ANA planes have the alternative Rolls-Royce engines, which are already certified.)

James Kenan, a 787 supply-chain analyst, said future planes will follow the advanced technology on the Dreamliner.

“It’s a great day for the airline industry.” he said. “It’s been a long time coming. This is a great moment, to get our first one out.”

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963

or dgates@seattletimes.com