NEW YORK/PARIS (Reuters) - Boeing (BA) plans to make the first flight of the 787-9 next week, a stretch version of its high-tech Dreamliner, according to two people familiar with the plans.
The flight, a key milestone in development of a sought-after longer version of the fuel-efficient aircraft, is tentatively planned for the middle or end of next week, although it could be delayed by technical factors and weather, the sources said.
The 787-9 is 20 feet longer than the 787-8 model currently in production, and will seat up to 40 more passengers, for a total of 290, making it more economical to operate. It has about 300 nautical miles in additional range.
A flight next week will put Boeing on the early side of its schedule for the plane, which Boeing said would make its first flight in the second half of 2013. The first delivery is due in mid-2014.
A flight next week also could put the 787-9 in the air before the first flight of the Bombardier (BBD-B.TO) CSeries, which was due to make its maiden voyage last year but has suffered a series of delays. That flight is now expected this month.
In June, Boeing launched the 787-10, which will add another 18 feet to the 787-9's length, but will have a shorter range than either of the earlier jets.
The 787-9 carries a list price of $243.6 million, compared with $206.8 million for the 787-8. Boeing hasn't disclosed a price for the 787-10.
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott and Tim Hepher; Editing by Maureen Bavdek and Phil Berlowitz)