Look, up in the sky ...1st U.S. 787 flights

Grace Beahm/Staff Boeing South Carolina rolled out its first 787 out of the assembly plant April 27.

The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner ever assembled in South Carolina is scheduled to fly for the first time sometime today, less than four weeks after making its high-profile public debut.

Boeing Co. had been aiming for a morning takeoff from North Charleston, but by late Tuesday had not nailed down a flight time.

The aircraft maker stressed that the pioneer plane’s maiden voyage is contingent upon preflight checks, taxi test and the weather.

The local weather forecast as of Tuesday night called for isolated thunderstorms overnight but mostly clear skies in the morning.

Barring complications, a crew will taxi the jet from its recent parking spot on the North Charleston campus flight line to a nearby Charleston International Airport runway.

The Dreamliner then will go airborne, and Boeing pilots and crew will fly it for about five hours.

“But the actual duration is going to be determined on board by the crew as the flight progresses,” said Candy Eslinger, spokeswoman for Boeing South Carolina.

She would not say where the plane would fly.

The B-1 flight, as any Boeing plane’s first time aloft is known, is not a public event, but there ought to be plenty of witnesses to the dramatic lift-off.

“We have more than 6,000 employees on site, and they’ll all be invited to participate,” Eslinger said. Journalists will watch from the same undisclosed vantage point as the Boeing workers.

Assembly of the plane, known as LN 46 internally, began late last summer. It moved through the U-shaped assembly line over the next several months and rolled out of the factory to great fanfare April 27. Over the past few weeks it has undergone various testing, including its engines’ first run on May 7.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh said May 15 that there was “a good possibility that airplane could fly toward the end of this week.”

If the B-1 flight goes according to plan, the plane next will fly to Texas to be painted before returning to North Charleston for another battery of tests, including another flight, this time directed by its eventual owner, Air India.

Delivery to Air India, which ordered the plane and 26 other Dreamliners in 2005 but has endured financial and labor strife since merging with Indian Airlines in 2007, is expected as early as next month.