Boeing Co.'s 787 Dreamliner waggled its wings on Tuesday in a salute to workers who built the world's first carbon-composite passenger jet as it took off from its factory for the last time and headed for Japan at the start a new era of air travel.
The takeoff into blustery, grey skies capped a three-day celebration, marking the first delivery of 787 to a customer. The light-weight airplane's delivery to All Nippon Airways is the pinnacle achievement so far for the troubled 787 program, which is three years behind schedule.
But many in the aviation world expect the Dreamliner, which provides unprecedented fuel efficiency and travellers' comforts, to revolutionize commercial flight.
Watching the jet take off was an emotional moment for workers.
"We were all choking up a little bit. I am just so happy to see the airplane in the hands of the customer. It makes me proud of our teams," Dan Mooney, vice-president of 787-8 development, said after the takeoff.
The Dreamliner left the runway at Paine Field north of Seattle shortly after dawn with 42 people on board for the nine-hour, 40-minute flight to Tokyo's Haneda Airport.
The Dreamliner will go into service for Japan's All Nippon Airways on Oct. 26.
Boeing has wrestled for years with delays caused chiefly by problems with a large number of companies that supplied parts for the plane.
Now the company faces another monumental task of producing the aircraft at a rate of 10 a month by the end of 2013. Boeing makes only two Dreamliners per month now, and some experts doubt the company can meet that target in two years.
The wide-body Dreamliner lists for about $200-million (U.S.), depending on the model. Boeing has taken 821 orders, according to its website.
Boeing shares were up 2.56 per cent at $63.60 on the New York Stock Exchange.