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Photos: Power on for Boeing's Dreamliner

It's been a long, earthbound road so far for the 787, but the aircraft got a spark of life recently with the arrival of electricity in the first assembly line model.

Boeing has done a lot of crowing about its 787 Dreamliner--and had to eat its fair share of crow along the way, too.

Boeing 787 power-on
Power on: A Boeing technician plugs an external power cart into the first 787 Dreamliner. To see more, click on the image. Boeing

Almost a year after rolling a bright, shiny mock-up of the plane out onto the public stage, then running hard into a series of supply chain problems that knocked ambitious assembly plans askew, the company now has a handful of Dreamliners at various stages of early readiness. The first of them this month finally went through its Power On sequence--technicians plugged in a power cart and started a sequence of bringing electricity into various systems, from the flight deck on back.

The testing of "distribution, conversion, control, and consumption of electric power," which Boeing says ran over a bit more than a week this month, was a milestone for the Dreamliner, from which the company expects many happy returns. It has long touted the 787, a fly-by-wire aircraft (that is, flight systems previously handled by pneumatics now are controlled by electronics), as the fastest-selling new commercial jetliner ever.

The first test flight for the plane now is scheduled for the fourth quarter, with commercial service due to begin sometime in 2009. (Way back at the splashy July 2007 debut, Boeing had hoped for a first test flight by last September, and commercial service starting in May of this year.)