Dreamliner set to land at American Airlines

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Dreamliner set to land at American Airlines
In this photo made Friday, May 9, 2014, American Airlines pilots Bill Elder, left, and Jim Dees work inside a Boeing 787 flight simulator with New York’s JFK airport gate scenery, in Fort Worth, Texas. In the next few months, dozens of American Airlines pilots will sit in the same simulator and learn the nuances of the controls before they can fly the real plane, which the airline will begin using for passenger flights early next year. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
In this photo made Friday, May 9, 2014, American Airlines pilot Bill Elder, the airline's fleet training manager on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, banks sharply to the left over the Queens and Manhattan boroughs of New York in a Boeing 787 flight simulator in Fort Worth, Texas. In the next few months, dozens of American Airlines pilots will sit in the same simulator and learn the nuances of the controls before they can fly the real plane, which the airline will begin using for passenger flights early next year. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
In this photo made Friday, May 9, 2014, American Airlines pilot Jim Dees conducts preflight work while taxiing on a simulation of New York’s JFK airport runway in a Boeing 787 flight simulator in Fort Worth, Texas. In the next few months, dozens of American Airlines pilots will sit in the same simulator and learn the nuances of the controls before they can fly the real plane, which the airline will begin using for passenger flights early next year. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
In this photo made Friday, May 9, 2014, American Airlines pilot Bill Elder, the airline's fleet training manager on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, pushes a ground-proximity warning light that came on as he nears the Empire State Building in a Boeing 787 flight simulator in Fort Worth, Texas. In the next few months, dozens of American Airlines pilots will sit in the same simulator and learn the nuances of the controls before they can fly the real plane, which the airline will begin using for passenger flights early next year. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 20: Model Jerry Hall poses on board a British Airways 787 Dreamliner during a photoshoot to launch direct flights to Austin at Heathrow on February 20, 2014 in London. Jerry Hall wears a dress from The Gathering Goddess Vintage with cowboy boots from R.Soles. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images for British Airways)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 20: Model Jerry Hall poses on the steps of a British Airways 787 Dreamliner during a photoshoot to launch direct flights to Austin, Texas at Heathrow on February 20, 2014 in London. Jerry Hall wears a dress from The Gathering Goddess Vintage with cowboy boots from R.Soles. (Photo by Tom Shaw/Getty Images for British Airways)
This photo made Friday, May 9, 2014 shows an American Airlines Boeing 787 flight simulator in Fort Worth, Texas. In the next few months, dozens of American Airlines pilots will sit in the simulator and learn the nuances of the controls before they can fly the real plane, which the airline will begin using for passenger flights early next year. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
In this photo made Friday, May 9, 2014, American Airlines pilots Bill Elder, left, and Jim Dees work inside a Boeing 787 flight simulator in Fort Worth, Texas. In the next few months, dozens of American Airlines pilots will sit in the same simulator and learn the nuances of the controls before they can fly the real plane, which the airline will begin using for passenger flights early next year. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
This Dec. 19, 2013 photo shows workers assembling a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Boeing's assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C. Construction at Boeing sites in South Carolina will continue during 2014 with, among other projects, construction of a plant to make jet plane engine air intakes and groundbreaking on a facility to paint Boeing 787s that are assembled in South Carolina. Boeing announced earlier this year that it would invest another $1 billion creating an additional 2,000 jobs in South Carolina during the next eight years. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
This Dec. 19, 2013 photo shows models of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Boeing's assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C., on Thursday, Dec. 19, 2013. Construction at Boeing sites in South Carolina will continue during 2014 with, among other projects, construction of a plant to make jet plane engine air intakes and a facility to paint Boeing 787s that are assembled in South Carolina. Boeing announced earlier this year that it would invest another $1 billion creating an additional 2,000 jobs in South Carolina during the next eight years. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
This Dec. 19, 2013 photo shows a Boeing 787 Dreamliner awaiting delivery to a customer at Boeing's assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C. Construction at Boeing sites in South Carolina will continue during 2014 with, among other projects, construction of a plant to make jet plane engine air intakes and groundbreaking on a facility to paint Boeing 787s that are assembled in South Carolina. Boeing announced earlier this year that it would invest another $1 billion creating an additional 2,000 jobs in South Carolina during the next eight years. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
A Boeing 787-9 rolls past employees and guests before taking off Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The 787-9 is 20 feet longer and can seat 40 more passengers than the original 787-8, which carries between 210 and 250 passengers. The new version of the Dreamliner also can carry more cargo and fly farther. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A Boeing 787-9 starts to take off Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The 787-9 is 20 feet longer and can seat 40 more passengers than the original 787-8, which carries between 210 and 250 passengers. The new version of the Dreamliner also can carry more cargo and fly farther. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A Boeing 787-9 takes off on a first flight of the new aircraft Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. Boeing spokeswoman Kate Bergman says the 787-9 is 20 feet longer and can seat 40 more passengers than the original 787-8, which carries between 210 and 250 passengers. The new version of the Dreamliner also can carry more cargo and fly farther. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A Boeing 787-9 taxis before taking off on a first flight of the new aircraft Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The 787-9 is 20 feet longer and can seat 40 more passengers than the original 787-8, which carries between 210 and 250 passengers. The new version of the Dreamliner also can carry more cargo and fly farther. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A Boeing 787-9 takes off on a first flight of the new aircraft Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The 787-9 is 20 feet longer and can seat 40 more passengers than the original 787-8, which carries between 210 and 250 passengers. The new version of the Dreamliner also can carry more cargo and fly farther. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A Boeing 787-9 rolls past employees and guests as it readies to take off on a first flight of the new aircraft Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The 787-9 is 20 feet longer and can seat 40 more passengers than the original 787-8, which carries between 210 and 250 passengers. The new version of the Dreamliner also can carry more cargo and fly farther. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A Boeing 787-9 takes off in view of a smaller aircraft on a first flight of the new aircraft Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The 787-9 is 20 feet longer and can seat 40 more passengers than the original 787-8, which carries between 210 and 250 passengers. The new version of the Dreamliner also can carry more cargo and fly farther. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
A Boeing 787-9 is followed by a chase plane as it readies to take off on a first flight of the new aircraft Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, at Paine Field in Everett, Wash. The 787-9 is 20 feet longer and can seat 40 more passengers than the original 787-8, which carries between 210 and 250 passengers. The new version of the Dreamliner also can carry more cargo and fly farther. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
An airport worker enters a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 aircraft as it sits on the tarmac at Terminal E at Logan International Airport in Boston Friday, July 19, 2013. The JAL aircraft's flight to Tokyo returned to Boston on Thursday because of a possible fuel pump issue. It's the latest trouble for the new Dreamliner aircraft after a lithium ion battery problem grounded the fleet in January. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 20: Tall ceilings are a plus in the economy class cabin area of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner that Air Canada took delivery of. The aircraft features 30% larger windows that dim electronically eliminating the need for mechanical shades and a touch screen entertainment system. The airline unveiled the new plane to it's frequent fliers, travel industry professionals and the media at Pearson Airport. May 20, 2014. (Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 20: Air Canada frequent flyer Norman Findlay tests out the reclining bed seats in Business Class of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner that Air Canada took delivery of. The airline unveiled the new plane to it's frequent fliers, travel industry professionals and the media at Pearson Airport. May 20, 2014. (Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - MAY 20: Air Canada Captain Steven Strauss in the cockpit of the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner that Air Canada took delivery of. The airline unveiled the new plane to it's frequent fliers, travel industry professionals and the media at Pearson Airport. May 20, 2014. (Chris So/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - May 18: Air Canada's new 787 Dreamliner just after a water cannon salute at Toronto Pearson International Airport. This is Air Canada's first of 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. May 18, 2014. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - May 18: Air Canada's new 787 Dreamliner comes in for a water cannon salute at Toronto Pearson International Airport. This is Air Canada's first of 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. May 18, 2014. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - May 18: Air Canada's new 787 Dreamliner comes in for a water cannon salute at Toronto Pearson International Airport. This is Air Canada's first of 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. May 18, 2014. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - May 18: Airport employees take photos of Air Canada's new 787 Dreamliner as it comes in for a water cannon salute at Toronto Pearson International Airport. This is Air Canada's first of 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. May 18, 2014. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - May 18: Airport employees take photos of Air Canada's new 787 Dreamliner as it comes in for a water cannon salute at Toronto Pearson International Airport. This is Air Canada's first of 37 Boeing 787 Dreamliners. May 18, 2014. (Randy Risling/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
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By DAVID KOENIG

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) -- Rumbling down the runway at New York's JFK airport, American Airlines pilot Bill Elder points the nose of the Boeing 787 skyward and takes off for Denver.

Elder roars over the Atlantic, then banks sharply to the left, back over Queens and then Manhattan. But he is flying too low and triggers a ground-proximity warning as the Empire State Building appears off to the left.

Not to worry. The scene is unfolding in a flight simulator at American's training center in Texas. Elder, American's fleet training manager, is demonstrating the warning systems that mimic those in an airliner.

American will take delivery of its first 787, which Boeing calls the Dreamliner, in November. Passenger flights begin flights early next year. In the next few months, dozens of American pilots will sit in the same simulator and learn the nuances of the controls before they can fly the real plane.

The 787 could be American's most important new plane since the Boeing 777 in 1999. With its improved fuel efficiency and long range, the 787 could boost the airline's profit by making many international routes more economical.

The plane has a turbulent record. Production was delayed two years, and the entire worldwide fleet of 50 was grounded last year after batteries overheated in two planes. Regulators allowed the jets to fly again after Boeing crafted a fix that included encasing the batteries in steel boxes to contain any fires.

The Dreamliner was the first big passenger jet to use lithium-ion batteries to power key systems. Last week, U.S. safety officials said that the Federal Aviation Administration relied too much on Boeing for technical expertise and might not have adequately tested the batteries for hazards due to short-circuiting. Experts believe that lithium-ion batteries can short-circuit without warning, the investigators said.

American Airlines Group Inc. declined to make an executive available for comment. In a statement to The Associated Press, the airline said it was "in constant dialogue with Boeing and we look forward to adding the 787 to our fleet." American's former CEO and current chairman, Tom Horton, similarly stood by Boeing last year.

American will become just the second U.S. airline, after United, to fly the 787. Worldwide, about 140 are flying today, and Boeing says it has orders for nearly 900 more.

American has ordered 42 Dreamliners but hasn't yet said which routes they will fly. Spokesman Casey Norton said the plane will be tested on domestic routes before going into international service - the same strategy used by United Airlines.

Richard Aboulafia, a prominent aviation consultant, said the Dreamliner will be crucial for American as it competes with United and Delta to attract premium passengers on international routes. He suggests that American will fly it to Asia, the Middle East and secondary cities in Europe.

"It is absolutely the plane you want to fly point-to-point internationally," he said, "and it's at its best at longer ranges" where the fuel efficiency pays off most.

United executives say the plane burns 20 percent less fuel than similar jets and scores highest in the airline's surveys of passengers. United plans to use the 787 on new flights this year between San Francisco and Chengdu, a Chinese city that has never had nonstop service from the U.S., and between Los Angeles and Melbourne.

The 787 "has allowed us to add more spokes to our network and do it economically," said United's vice president of network operations, Brian Znotins. The airline has 65 more on order, including new larger versions.

American won't say how much it will pay for the planes. The base model lists for $211.8 million on Boeing's website, but airlines routinely get deep discounts.

Even the simulator wasn't cheap. American wouldn't comment, but a spokeswoman for the manufacturer, Canada's CAE, said that a 787 simulator would be at the "upper end" of a range between $11 million and $20 million.

Depending on their experience, American pilots will spend anywhere from 10 days to nearly a month in the simulator before graduating to practice flights with the real plane. Then come passenger trips, when they will be accompanied by an instructor called a check airman.

Jim Dees, American's training program chief for the 787 - he and Elder are the only American pilots who have flown a Dreamliner - said the simulator allows pilots to practice during emergencies and bad weather that wouldn't be safe in a real plane. They can pick from nearly two dozen airports for takeoffs and landings, including over-water approaches at San Francisco or mountainous terrain around Salt Lake City.

Letting a reporter take the first officer's seat, the pilots had him pull the nose up, push it down and roll from side to show how the 20,000-pound device with six gigantic legs simulates the rocking of a plane in flight. They even let him "land" in Denver.

"The feel on the controls," Elder said, "is just as if you were on an airplane."

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