MUST READ: Boeing's new 787 jetliner makes first test flight

EVERETT, Wash. -- Boeing Co.'s new 787 jetliner finally took to the skies Tuesday, more than two years later than the company had planned.

Pilots Michael Carriker and Randall Neville lifted off in the big blue and white jet shortly after 10 a.m. from Everett's Paine Field on a four-hour flight over Washington state, beginning the extensive flight test program needed to obtain the plane's Federal Aviation Administration certification.

Before landing at Seattle's Boeing Field later, the two-member crew planned to perform a variety of basic tests and systems checks, said Boeing Commercial Airplanes spokesman Jim Proulx. ''They will essentially make sure that the airplane under normal circumstances flies the way it's supposed to fly,'' he said.

The huge blue and white aircraft paused for several minutes at the end of the runway, adding to the tension for the several thousand Boeing employees, customers and airline executives standing on the tarmac to watch.

About 25,000 people braved the cold and damp to watch the 787 take off. Paine Field operations director Bruce Goetz says most of the crowd were Boeing employees or members of the general public. Also in the crowd were executives from the airlines that plan to buy the new plane.

Joe Bierce, a flight instructor for Delta Connection traveled from Jacksonville, Fla., for the event.

''It's very historical,'' said Bierce, noting the plane's many innovations. ''I can't think of a thing about it that I'm not impressed with.''

Although the runway was lined with fire trucks and other emergency vehicles with lights flashing, the first flight looked like a normal takeoff for an airliner as the huge engines kicked up clouds of mist.

The plane is the first of six 787s Boeing will use in the flight test program, expected to last about nine months that will subject the planes to conditions well beyond those found in normal airline service. Chicago-based Boeing, which has orders for 840 787s, plans to make the first delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways late next year.