The story of the 4th Boeing 787 prototype

Today marks 12 years since Boeing’s fourth prototype for the 787 ‘Dreamliner’ family first took flight. Registered N7874, it performed a significant number of test flights for the American manufacturer and remains active in this role today. Let’s take a look back at some of his more notable tasks.

12 years of flight

According to data from, the N7874 was built in September 2009, about three months before the first flight of the Boeing 787. However, as the fourth prototype of the short-body 787-8 variant, this aircraft did not take flight until the year next. In effect, notes that this took place on February 24, 2010.


Powered by Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, the aircraft has a maximum takeoff weight of 227,930 kg. It was the penultimate testbed of the Boeing-built 787, followed only by the N787FT. After that, 787s with build numbers 6 and up were designed for use by Boeing’s commercial customers, such as airlines and government operators.

However, what sets the N7874 apart from its prototype counterparts is that it remained active for a much longer period of time. Indeed, ch-aviation shows that it is the only one of the five not to have been scrapped (N787FT) or exposed (N787BA, N787EX, and N787BX). During his career, he filled various interesting roles.

ecoD787first flight

The N7874 was the second aircraft used in Boeing’s famous ecoDemonstrator program. Photo: Boeing

The second ecoDemonstrator

The photograph above depicts N7874’s first flight as a Boeing ecoDemonstrator aircraft. This term refers to experimental aircraft that Boeing uses to test a range of technological features, with the aim of increasing the operational durability of its aircraft. Simple Flying saw the newest in Glasgow last year.

Regarding N7874’s time as an ecoDemonstrator, Boeing note that the aircraft tested “more than 25 new technologies aimed at improving the environmental performance of aviation at every phase of flight.” He took flight in this capacity in November 2014. Ray Conner of Boeing said that:

“The ecoDemonstrator focuses on technologies that can improve airline gate-to-gate efficiency and reduce fuel consumption, emissions and noise. Through the ecoDemonstrator program, Boeing continues to invest in innovation that benefits the environment and our customers.

Some of the technologies tested by the Dreamliner included greenhouse gas sensors, real-time turbulence reporting, and remote sensors to reduce wiring.

787 Card

More recently, Boeing used the N7874 to paint a huge portrait in the sky. Picture:

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A self-portrait in the sky

A few years after serving as a Boeing eco-demonstrator, the N7874 took part in another remarkable project. As seen in the image above, Boeing used the plane to “draw” a Dreamliner in the sky using the flight path of an 18-hour test flight. According to Yahoo financethe odyssey was nearly 10,000 miles (16,093 km) long.

But what has the plane been up to lately? All in all, its activities seem to have slowed down somewhat in recent months. In fact, the data of suggests he hasn’t flown since Nov. 30, 2021, when he completed a 199-minute circle test flight from Seattle’s Boeing Field/King County International (BFI).

Did you know about N7874’s long and varied career? Have you ever seen the plane in person? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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