West Texans looking to the skies might see the nation’s newest commercial jet doing training runs.
Officials at the Midland Air and Space Port say it’s no cause for concern. It’s just practice for pilots of American Airlines flying the new Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. The jets, designed to carry 226 passengers, are being touted for their fuel efficiency and comfort.
The first flight was Feb. 14. They are expected to last for about two months.
The Dreamliner can land at the Midland airport if needed, but that’s not expected.
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“You should not see them on the ground at all,” said Justin Millican, the airport’s operations manager. “It’s not like it’s going to stop here, get fuel or stay for a couple of days. They are mainly doing touch-and-goes and pattern work.”
A “touch-and-go” is exactly what it sounds like — a maneuver where the pilot touches the wheels of the aircraft on the runway for an instant before pulling back up into the sky.
The Dreamliner is the first in Fort Worth-based American’s fleet. The airline plans to add more than 40. That means months of training for pilots, who had mostly practiced on flight simulators.
Hundreds of pilots will undergo the training, accompanied by “check airmen” already trained on the aircraft, American spokesman Matt Miller said.
The Dreamliner’s appearance above Odessa and Midland is random. Pilots don’t have a flight plan. Instead, they pick where they will fly and generally choose west because that’s where international routes from Dallas/Fort Worth Airport tend to head, Miller said.
The jet will go into service May 7 with runs between DFW and Chicago O’Hare. In June, American Airlines will begin nonstop Boeing 787 flights from DFW to Beijing. A separate service would fly to Buenos Aires, Argentina.