FORT WORTH, Texas — Rumbling down the runway at New York’s JFK airport, American Airlines pilot Bill Elder points the nose of the Boeing 787 skyward and takes off for Denver.
Elder roars over the Atlantic, then banks sharply to the left, back over Queens and then Manhattan. But he is flying too low and triggers a ground-proximity warning as the Empire State Building appears. This scene is in a flight simulator at American’s training center in Texas.
American Airlines will get its first 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, in November. Passenger flights begin flights early next year. In the next few months, dozens of American pilots will learn the nuances of the controls before they can fly the real plane.
With its improved fuel efficiency, the 787 could boost the airline’s profit by making many international routes more economical.
The plane has a turbulent record. Production was delayed two years, and the entire worldwide fleet of 50 was grounded last year after batteries overheated in two planes. Boeing crafted a fix that included encasing the batteries in steel boxes to contain any fires.
The Dreamliner was the first big passenger jet to use lithium-ion batteries to power key systems. Last week, U.S. safety officials said that the Federal Aviation Administration might not have adequately tested the batteries for hazards due to short-circuiting. Experts believe that lithium-ion batteries can short-circuit without warning.
American will become just the second U.S. airline, after United, to fly the 787. The airline has ordered 42 Dreamliners but hasn’t yet said which routes they will fly.