A long time ago in a paint hangar far, far away ... well, OK, it was really just a few days ago and the paint hangar was only on the left coast of the United States.
But the North Charleston-built Dreamliner that emerged from that hangar on Sept. 12 — painted to look like the lovable R2-D2 astromech droid character from the “Star Wars” motion picture empire — has been the most-anticipated commercial plane of the year.
A marketing collaboration between Japan’s All Nippon Airways and Walt Disney Pictures for the upcoming “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” the 787-9 was expected to return to Boeing Co.’s North Charleston campus late Thursday. It is set to be delivered Sept. 29 to Tokyo-based ANA.
Starting Oct. 18, the R2-D2 passenger jet will go into service on international routes, initially between Tokyo and Vancouver, as well as on trips between Japanese cities and Europe, Australia, China, Indonesia and the United States.
The plane rolled off North Charleston’s assembly line on Aug. 18. It had to be flown to Boeing’s paint facility in Everett, Wash., for its livery because the local paint hangar is still under construction.
The Everett site gave the public its first view of the plane last week — a pomp-filled event broadcast live via the Internet as the Dreamliner emerged from a hangar to the booming sounds of the movie’s soundtrack. Fussy droid C-3PO made a cameo appearance and a group of Stormtroopers guarded the plane before and during its roll-out, discouraging any overzealous fans from getting too close.
By contrast, local Boeing officials have been tight-lipped about the plane’s North Charleston itinerary, saying the company does not comment on its customers’ plans.
The plane’s “Star Wars” theme doesn’t end with its exterior paint job. The interior will have “Star Wars” headrest covers, the dining service will feature “Star Wars” paper napkins and cups and the onboard entertainment console will have all six “Star Wars” films available for viewing.
ANA also has announced plans with Boeing for a 777-300ER with livery featuring BB-8 — a new droid in the film franchise — and a 767 with a combo livery of both R2-D2 and BB-8.
In the meantime, the initial R2-D2 plane is expected to rest on the flightline along Aviation Avenue until ANA takes possession.
As Yoda might say: “It, a big attraction for ‘Star Wars’ and Dreamliner fans, will be.”
Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_