The first Boeing 787 to fly is following other retirees south today. Just a few weeks shy of the anniversary of its first flight, ZA001 is currently en route to Palmdale, California. It will be pulled out of service and stored until its final fate is determined.
The first 787 to fly back on December 15, 2009, ZA001 has served as the workhorse of the flight test fleet with 518 flights and more than 1,326 hours according to Boeing (not including the current flight). The airplane has been all around the world and just returned from Australia last month.
As a flight test aircraft ZA001 was never intended to enter passenger service. The airplane is outfitted with numerous sensors, instruments and other test equipment and the interior looks more like a laboratory than an airliner. As the first airplane to be finished, the airframe that flies to California today has been the focus of many of the accomplishments and missteps during the long and somewhat tormented history of the 787 program.
After arriving in Palmdale, ZA001 will have its Rolls Royce engines removed and it will be placed in storage. Located north of Los Angeles in the Mojave Desert, Palmdale is a busy flight test airport and is home to a Boeing flight test facility. The desert climate is ideal for long term aircraft storage as is demonstrated at the nearby Mojave Air and Space Port. ZA001 is expected to eventually make its way to a museum according to Flightblogger Jon Ostrower. A likely final parking spot is at the Museum of Flight at Boeing Field in Seattle where Boeing’s flight test group is based and ZA001 spent much of its life.
The 787 is now in its third month of service with launch customer All Nippon Airways in Japan. The carrier has been flying passengers domestically with the composite airliner and should begin long-haul international flights next month according to Aviation Week.
ANA will eventually take delivery of 55 787 aircraft. Boeing has orders for 821 Dreamliners in total. Airlines around the world are currently training pilots to fly the 787 as Boeing begins to deliver airplanes to other airlines early next year.
Photo of ZA001 after its first flight: Jason Paur/Wired.com