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Glorious summer skies over Washington state's Olympic Mountains welcomed the first 757-300 aloft Aug. 2.



New jet

'comes to life'


   By Mark Ziegler

   Boeing News



It was a day of firsts.

The first flight. For the first derivative in the 757 family. Broadcast live via the Internet to a worldwide audience, for the first time.

In almost perfect summer weather, the first 757-300 -- a stretched version of the 757-200 and the newest addition to the Boeing family of commercial jetliners -- made a successful flight Sunday, Aug. 2. It took off from Renton Field and later made a perfect landing some eight miles away at Boeing Field in Seattle.

During the two hour, 25-minute flight, Capts. Leon Robert and Jerry Whites conducted a series of tests on the airplane's systems and structures, including testing of the wing flaps, main landing gear and flight controls. They also performed a preliminary evaluation of the airplane's handling qualities and performance.

Robert and Whites described as "great" the flight of the world's largest single-aisle twinjet.

"The plane flies very close to what the 757-200 does," Whites said.

"And the -200 is one of the finest-handling airplanes Boeing has built," Robert added.

The day began with a crowd of Boeing employees and family members gathered on the east side of Renton Field. Soon, Robert and Whites started the huge Rolls-Royce engines and taxied to the south end of the runway.

Watching were Steve Smith, a liaison engineer for the 757 program in Renton, wife Kim and their children, including Thomas, 6.

"Daddy, will it go really fast?" Thomas inquired.

"You just watch, Tom," his father replied.

Confided Smith: "Thomas says he wants to be an engineer -- he really likes planes."

Smith joined Boeing two years ago, and the event was his first opportunity to see a first flight.

"As it was going through the factory, seeing the problems that came up, ironing them out -- it's been a whole lot of work for a lot of people," Smith said. "It's great seeing it take off."

After completing the series of tests, the airplane -- designated NU701 until delivery -- touched down at Boeing Field, not far from a telemetry room filled with flight test personnel monitoring readings received from onboard sensors and computers.

"Our hearts have finally started beating again, and we've started breathing," said Margaret Nomi, 757-300 deputy program manager, as the plane slowed to a stop near her. "The plane has come to life. We've been waiting for this moment for two years."

The launch customer also was thrilled.

"All the aerodynamics calculations and studies and wind tunnel tests tell you it will fly, but to see it in air and in person is just so great," said Henner Wilhelm, 757-300 program manager for Condor Flugdienst, the German holiday carrier.

The pilots were greeted by Harry Stonecipher, Boeing president and chief operating officer, Ron Woodard, president, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group, and Jim Jamieson, vice president and general manager, 737/757 Programs.

"It's a great airplane," Stonecipher remarked.

"The people in the paint shop, the tire shop, the engineers and flight control are the people who deserve the credit," Whites said. "We just get the benefit of the result."

Following the first flight, crews inspected the plane's structure. Future flight tests will provide more data as the plane goes through the certification process.

Delivery of the first 757-300 -- to Condor -- is scheduled for early 1999.


Related sidebar article:

757-300 takes off over the Internet, too