published Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Chattanoogan at throttle of Boeing 787

Audio clip

Steve Smith

Steve Smith watched from his computer and cheered as former Red Bank High School classmate co-piloted Tuesday's test flight for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

"It's exciting to know your old high school friend made it good," said Mr. Smith, of Chattanooga. "Short of being an astronaut, this is as good as it gets."

The engineering test pilot for the new Boeing 787 and co-pilot on its first flight was Capt. Randy Neville, a Chattanoogan who graduated with Mr. Smith in 1971.

Capt. Neville is a retired U.S. Air Force test pilot who has worked with the 787 program since 2005.


The 787 Dreamliner is the first commercial plane with half of its components made from lightweight composite materials. The aircraft will cost substantially less to fuel and maintain and will be quieter and emit fewer emissions.

Source: AP,


A Chattanooga native, Capt. Randy Neville is an engineering test pilot for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. He was an F-22 Raptor test pilot for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems for nine years before joining the 787 program in 2005. He flew the F-106 and the F-16 during 20 years in the U.S. Air Force. Capt. Neville earned a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Tennessee in 1975 and a master's degree in international relations from Troy State University in 1989.


To his high school friends, he's a local hero.

"We think he's one of our claims to fame," said Becky Browder, a former classmate who lives in Red Bank.

The crew for Tuesday's 787 test flight consisted of Capt. Neville and Chief Pilot Michael Carriker. They took off about 11:30 PST from Everett, Wash., and flew for about three hours before landing at Boeing Field in Seattle.

  • photo
    The Boeing 787 Dremliner taxis from its parking spot on Tuesday before it takes off from Paine Field in Everett, Wash. (AP Photo/The Seattle Times, Greg Gilbert) ** SEATTLE OUT, USA TODAY OUT, MAGAZINES OUT, SALES OUT. MANDATORY CREDIT **

The sixth time was the charm for the Dreamliner's first successful test run -- Boeing had to postpone the flight for the fifth time in June, according to The Associated Press.

The 787 is made mostly of lightweight, composite materials. Boeing says it's eco-friendly, with lower emissions, better fuel economy and a quieter engine.

Before the flight, Capt. Neville sent Mr. Smith an e-mail.

  • photo
    Capt. Randy Neville is an engineering test pilot for the all-new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. As an engineering test pilot, Neville conducts flight tests of new aircraft designs and establishes the basic airworthiness of the aircraft and verifies that it functions as designed. Prior to joining the 787 Program in 2005, Neville was an F-22 Raptor test pilot for Boeing Integrated Defense Systems for nine years. Assigned to the F-22 Combined Test Force at Edwards Air Force Base, Neville flew the F-22 as well as the F-16 chase aircraft.

"Don't know if the news has made it there yet, but we are on the first flight tomorrow," Capt. Neville wrote. "Now the biggest uncertainty is weather."

The plane did have to land an hour earlier than planned Tuesday because of weather.

"It's exciting for us, because we see tangible results for our hard work," said Liz Verdier, a Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokeswoman.

And Tuesday's flight was a tangible evidence for locals that Capt. Neville's hard work also has paid off.

"We always think of him as one from our class who is really living his dream," Ms. Browder said.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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fftspam said...

Local connections to national news is what will make newspapers like TFP survive. News that I already did NOT know. Keep it up. I will drop two quarters in the rack for a copy tomorrow.

December 16, 2009 at 2:21 a.m.
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