Morrisville, N.C. — The first nonstop flight from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to San Francisco took off Wednesday morning.
The flight, offered by United Airlines, is expected to give Triangle business leaders a chance to connect quickly with their high-tech brethren in California's Silicon Valley.
Gov. Bev Perdue and other North Carolina business leaders were aboard the inaugural flight, which took off from RDU just after 7 a.m. and should arrive in San Francisco by 1 p.m. Eastern time.
“Businesses, particularly the life sciences and technology sectors, have been very vocal about the importance of this flight to their ongoing success and ability to grow and compete," RDU Director Michael Landguth said in April when the airport announced the new service.
Landguth said 400 passengers head to the Bay Area every day from the Triangle, with scores more connecting through the West Coast to destinations in Asia.
Chris Heivly, with the Triangle Start-Up Factory, said Wednesday that the flight allows investors quicker access to the companies they want to connect with.
"Links to those companies and investors in Silicon Valley are critical to our community and those linkages need to be stronger, quicker and tighter than a two-stop flight," Heivly said. "This nonstop flight gives us access to investors, potential business deals, mentors, advisers and executives."
The outbound flights on a 218-seat Boeing 737 will leave RDU at 7 a.m., arriving at San Francisco at 9:50 a.m. Pacific time, which gives passengers time to connect to late-morning flights headed to Asia.
The inbound flights depart San Francisco at 1 p.m. Pacific time and arrive at RDU at 9 p.m. Eastern time.