The celebratory champagne should be well-chilled by now.
After years of manufacturing delays and cost overruns, the state-of-the-art Boeing 787 Dreamliner makes its North American debut Sunday morning, toting more than 200 eager United Airlines passengers from Houston to Chicago.
It promises to be a morning full of festivities, starting with a ribbon-cutting before the plane departs Bush Intercontinental Airport at 7:20 a.m. The aircraft touches down two and a half hours later at O'Hare International Airport, greeted by a water cannon salute.
United says the 787 -- the airline has ordered 50 -- will "revolutionize the flying experience for our customers and crew while delivering unprecedented operating efficiency, comfort and lower emissions."
The Dreamliner saves airlines money on fuel because its body is made from lightweight composite materials. It features passenger comforts such as bigger windows, larger overhead bins and better ventilation.
Sunday's flight crew won't need to kick the nose gear tires, size 40x16.0 R16/26PR to be exact, before taking off.
United received the Dreamliner flying Sunday on September 28. It was put through the paces in October before earning Federal Aviation Administration certification.
"Everyone's very excited, even people who aren't in the industry," Phil Derner, founder of the aviation news site NYCAviation.com, told CNN in August. "There's a ton of new technology on the 787. It's efficient and performs well, and it's also a very good-looking aircraft. It's kind of like a sports car in the sky."
In September 2011, Japan's All Nippon Airways became the first carrier to receive the plane, which was three years overdue at that time.
Because of unexpected delivery delays, during November and December some domestic flights originally scheduled to use the 787 will operate with a different aircraft type, United said.
United says its Dreamliners will include 36 first-class seats, 70 premium-economy seats and 113 economy seats. It recently received its second 787.
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