By GENE JOHNSON=, Associated Press
EVERETT, Wash. (AP) _ Boeing Co. handed over the key for the first Boeing 787 to All Nippon Airways in a delivery ceremony Monday at Paine Field, near the factory where the wide-body jets are assembled.
Hundreds of people took cover from the rain under the wings of two giant 787s. The actual first ANA plane was at the Future of Flight aviation center nearby for a Monday night VIP reception.
ANA signed delivery documents on Sunday and plans to fly its first plane away Tuesday. It goes into service in November in Japan.
Boeing Executive Vice President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Jim Albaugh told workers in the crowd the day was one of the most significant in the history of commercial aviation.
“You have no idea what you’ve achieved,” he said. “It’s not often in a career or a lifetime we have a chance to do something like this.”
Albaugh then handed the aircraft’s key to Shinichiro Ito, president and CEO of ANA.
“Please take good care of it,” Albaugh said. “We’re very proud.”
The crowd cheered.
“I know the road that led to today was full of great difficulties,” Ito said through an interpreter. “Yet all of those challenges were overcome.”
“I say to each and every one of you, you have my utmost respect and deepest gratitude.”
Ito promised the plane would be carefully and lovingly taken to Japan, where people were eager to see it. He was to be on the flight.
Standing under the wing of one of the 787s he worked on, Boeing mechanic and technician Tracy Thompson acknowledged the longer than expected journey to get the aircraft ready for customers.
“We had a lot of issues, a lot of problems, but they’re being resolved and we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, with the first one being delivered,” he said. “The investment in this airplane is taking aviation leaps into the future.”
Monday’s ceremony was a long-awaited milestone for Boeing after three years of delays.
Peter Clark, an aviation industry analyst, traveled from Auckland, New Zealand, to attend the ceremony. He called the 787’s delivery one of the four major events in the history of commercial aviation, after the development of the Boeing 707, the 747 and Concorde.
“When it rolled out in 2007, it was just a piece of plastic on wheels. This is an amazing day. I’m proud to be here,” Clark said.
Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire called it a proud day for both Boeing and the state of Washington.
“Today’s delivery of the first 787 Dreamliner marks the beginning of a new chapter in the company’s history, and continues to tell the world _ Washington state is the home for the most innovative, fuel-efficient airplanes around the globe,” she said, noting that no other state is home to so many highly trained aerospace workers.
Chicago-based Boeing said a high-tech plastic fuselage makes the plane lighter than aircraft it will replace, saving airlines fuel. It promises passengers more comfort with features such as bigger windows and larger luggage bins.
Boeing has more than 800 orders for the wide-body plane that will compete with the Airbus A350.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)