S.C. Dreamliner off to pick up coat

Boeing’s first South Carolina-built 787 Dreamliner, shown during its maiden flight at Charleston International Airport, flew to Texas Wednesday to be painted for customer Air India. The painted jet is scheduled to return to the Lowcountry early next month.

A week after taking flight for the first time, Boeing South Carolina’s first 787 Dreamliner flew for the second time Wednesday, this time to Texas where it will be painted in preparation for next month’s scheduled delivery to Air India.

Around the same time as last Wednesday, the historic plane taxied from its spot on Boeing’s campus flight line over to a runway at Charleston International Airport.

The plane took off at 1:20 p.m. and landed in Fort Worth, Texas, at 3:10 p.m. Central time, according to the flight-tracking website Flight Aware.

“The flight went well, and it landed at its scheduled time,” Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman Candy Eslinger wrote in an email. “Painting will begin as soon as the airplane is ready.”

Boeing picked Leading Edge Aviation Services last May to paint all its S.C.-built Dreamliners, according to a company press release. That announcement said Leading Edge would perform the work in the North Texas town of Amarillo, but Eslinger said Wednesday the plane would be coated in Fort Worth.

She said the plane would receive the standard Air India paint job, which has typically been mostly white, with red lettering and a gold sun design on a red tail.

According to Eslinger, the painted jet will return to the Lowcountry early next month “to continue to be readied for delivery to our first customer by mid-2012.”

That’s if everything goes according to plan.

Air India, which has struggled for years with profitability and integrating its workforce, is in crisis.

A $5.8 billion government bailout approved last month seemed to assure its future operations, including the 27 Dreamliners it ordered in 2005. But this month, hundreds of its pilots went on strike.

Now in its fourth week, the work stoppage has led to canceled flights, fired pilots, court actions and further financial problems.

Further clouding the delivery picture, India’s civil aviation minister said this week that the national carrier will not accept any of its Dreamliners until Boeing agrees to adequate compensation for the three-year delay in delivering the hyped twin-aisle jets.

Boeing South Carolina, whose next three 787s are earmarked for Air India, has declined to comment on the airline’s woes.

Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 or kearney_brendan@twitter.com.