As Boeing's 787 Dreamliner lifted off for the first time under gray Seattle skies Tuesday, Wichita's aviation industry paid close attention.
Spirit AeroSystems, Wichita State University's National Institute for Aviation Research and Wichita suppliers have been heavily involved in the aircraft.
Spirit is building the nose section and stuffing it with the flight controls. It's been working on the program since 2003, when the company was still part of Boeing.
The program is two years behind schedule, but Tuesday was filled with anticipation and enthusiasm.
"It's exciting," Spirit CEO and president Jeff Turner said. "It's an important milestone for the program and, therefore, for us."
Turner and others at the Wichita Aero Club luncheon kept track of whether the flight was going to occur through their smartphones.
At one point, Turner, who was part of an aircraft-executive panel discussion, announced that the plane had lifted off. The 350 people in attendance broke out in applause.
Boeing's flight test program will involve six test aircraft that will undergo rigorous testing over the next nine months.
Turner isn't expecting to have to make any structural changes to the nose section.
"In order to put the airplane in the air, it has to have gone through structural testing," he said.
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