Boeing’s test pilots have earned a reputation for creative flight plans in recent years.

You may recall a February test flight that etched a giant “MAX” over the Pacific Northwest with – of course – one of the company’s new 737 Max jets. Football fans might remember 2014, when a Boeing 747 painted in the colors of the Seattle Seahawks flew in a giant “12” over Washington state to honor the team’s “Twelfth Man” home fans. Or there was that time the crew of a Boeing 747 test flight flew from Everett, Wash., to Pittsburgh for one of the city’s famous sandwiches.

Boeing’s latest noteworthy test flight? That came last week when test pilots on one of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliners traced a silhouette of giant 787-8 that covered nearly a third of the mainland U.S. 


The flight took about 18 hours, lasting from Wednesday afternoon into Thursday morning.

“With time to spare in the air, a Boeing test team got creative, flying a route that outlined a 787-8 in the skies over 22 states,” Boeing said in a statement.

The resulting outline stretched from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula south to the Texas-Mexico border and from western Wyoming east to central Kentucky. 

The flight was conducted as part of testing required to certify a new engine that will power some newer Dreamliners.  

FlightRadar24, one of numerous flight-tracking services that showed the unique flight path, has more details. It writes the Boeing aircraft was “performing ETOPS (extended operations) testing on the new Rolls Royce Trent 1000 TEN engine, which will power (Boeing’s) 787-10” variant.

And, as NBC News points out, Boeing may have credited its test crew for getting creative, but such flight plans must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. As for the flight itself, it’s carefully monitored by Boeing and related parties to collect information for the certification process.

“The altitude, the speed, the power settings, the flight path and any changes that are made are pre-determined in those protocols,” Anthony Roman, a former corporate pilot and adjunct flight instructor Anthony Roman, says to NBC News. 

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