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Webcast gives viewers a rare real-time peek at Dreamliner's historic maiden flight

December 15, 2009 |  1:45 pm
Invitees crowd in for a closer look at Boeing's first 787 Dreamliner during its official unveiling in July in Everett, Wash. Credit: Ted S. Warren, Associated Press.

At long last, the Boeing 787 took to the skies today, and the entire process was webcast live.

Through multiple camera angles reminiscent of a feature film, Boeing Co. featured the Dreamliner’s first flight from Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The webcast was unprecedented: In the past, a plane’s first test flight was typically a private affair in case something went wrong.

“Unquestionably, this is the future of commercial aviation,” said aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia of Teal Group Corp.

A website went live 24 hours prior to takeoff at The event was broadcast live, including takeoff, landing and post-flight news conference.

Aboulafia said he was impressed with the webcast, which included voices of air traffic control, an online flight tracker and even a commentator to add a little flavor to the streaming video.

Hundreds of Boeing workers and journalists were on hand to witness the takeoff of the Dreamliner, which is more than two years late and billions of dollars over budget. However, the plane is much anticipated. With about 840 orders valued at about $140 billion, it is believed to be the future of commercial aviation.

The plane lifted off about 35 miles north of Seattle around 10:30 a.m. It rained earlier in the day, and there were some fears that the flight would be delayed, said Scott Hamilton, an aviation industry consultant and managing director of Leeham Co. in Issaquah, Wash.

In the end though, the event went on without a hitch, he said. The plane landed safely about three hours later, at 1:33 p.m.

“It’s great to see the birth of a baby,” Hamilton said. “This is history for Boeing, and it went extremely well. They really know how to put on a great show.”

-- W.J. Hennigan