Dreamliner visit to coincide with Qantas birthday

Australians will get their first glimpse of Boeing's long-delayed 787 Dreamliner aircraft next week as part of a tour Down Under, which will coincide with Qantas's 91st anniversary.

Qantas is not expected to take delivery of its first next-generation 787 until early 2013 but Boeing is flying one of its first test aircraft to Sydney on November 15 for a two-day visit. It will be in Melbourne on November 17.

The arrival of what has been heralded as a game-changer for airlines will be a much-needed respite for Qantas from the dramatic grounding of its fleet and staff lock-out just over a week ago.

The visit also coincides with the Flying Kangaroo's 91st birthday celebrations on November 16.

Qantas has the second-biggest order in the world for the 787. Under Boeing's most recent timetable, Qantas was to take delivery of its first 50 Dreamliners late next year, but the airline's chief executive, Alan Joyce, said several months ago that the delivery was now unlikely until early 2013.

The first of the Dreamliners destined for Australia will go to Jetstar, while those delivered later will be used primarily by Qantas for domestic services.

Before the test aircraft reaches Australia, the 787 will touch down in Auckland on Saturday morning, where it will remain until early Tuesday.

Air New Zealand has orders for eight 787s.

The jet does not have a normal airline-style interior because it is Boeing's first test aircraft.

Three years late and billions of dollars over budget, the development of the 787 has been hugely embarrassing – and costly – for the American manufacturing giant. Boeing has heralded the Dreamliner as 20 per cent more fuel efficient than other aircraft of its size, and capable of flying more than 15,000 kilometres.

The first Dreamliner entered service last month with launch customer All Nippon Airways, making its first commercial flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong on October 26. On Sunday, the jet experienced its first technical hitch, when its landing gear failed to deploy on approach to Japan's Okayama airport.

The 787 program has close links to Australia. Composite wing flaps for the new aircraft are made at Boeing's sprawling plant at Fishermans Bend in Melbourne where production is in full swing seven days a week.

About 60 per cent of the work at the Fishermans Bend plant is devoted to building the wing flaps for the 787, while the rest is on components for other aircraft, such as Boeing's 737 and 777 passenger jets.

A Qantas spokesman said today that the airline was still finalising events to mark the jet's arrival next week and the 91st anniversary celebrations.