Boeing's damaged Dreamliner No. 2 is back in the air – but not for test flights. It's not clear when the new jet's test flight program will resume or how long the latest 787 delay will end up being.
But Boeing says the Dreamliner that was badly damaged by an in-flight fire in Texas three weeks ago took off from Laredo at 12:06 p.m. Pacific Time and was expected to land at Boeing Field at 4:18 this afternoon.
It is returning to Seattle as engineers continue updating systems software that manages power distribution and working on other design changes that could prevent electrical fires like the one that filled the cabin with smoke and grounded the jet on November 9th.
Another delay of the troubled jet's first delivery to All Nippon Airways is certain. Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and Chief Executive Officer Jim Albaugh tells Reuters he expects the 787 schedule to slip.
"There will be an impact with the first delivery," he said, adding that it will take several weeks before they know the length of a delay. "Once we understand the fix, we'll be able to tell you what the impact on the schedule."
Earlier this week, one analyst predicted 6 months, meaning first delivery would take place in the fall of 2011. Robert Stallard of RBC Capital Markets also thinks the production rate of the new jet will drop next year, from 22 to 10.
However, Boeing convinced Stallard that the changes necessary to the new jet will be 'minor' and that the FAA's green light to allow Dreamliner No. 2 to return to Seattle bodes well. He remained bullish on Boeing's stock.