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.
BOEING 787 DREAMLINER
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, www.boeing.com
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.
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.
"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.