The Boeing 787 on its way to the runway for its first flight yesterday.

The Boeing 787 on its way to the runway for its first flight yesterday.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner had a wonderful first flight yesterday. It was covered by multiple media outlets and many different formats, from twitter, to standard live TV, to web feed, to even streaming video on an iPhone. Reading the forums (and even my friend’s Facebook statuses) a lot of people keep asking “why should I care?”

These are the reasons I think even non-aviation nerds might care:

* The 787 is made up of 50% composite material. I have seen people say “I would much rather fly on a metal plane than a plastic one.” The carbon fiber used in this aircraft is not like any plastic. Carbon fiber is stronger and lighter than metal and I would much rather fly in a “plastic” than “metal” plane any day. Take a look at this picture of the inside structure of a Boeing 707. All the metal panels riveted together. Notice all the additional structure needed around the windows. Compare it to the inside of the 787. The 787’s composite body  is one solid structure and with fewer weak points. For example, the Boeing 747 requires about 1million holes to be drilled in its fuselage, but the 787 requires less than 10,000. (take a look at all the Boeing 707 and 787 material pictures I took at the Future of Flight)

* Boeing has designed this aircraft to bring back the joy in flying. There is revolutionary lighting and more space for people and luggage.

* The humidity level during flight will be higher, due to having composite materials that won’t rust. This will increase the comfort level for the passengers and reduce jet lag.

* Even with the delays and cancellations, there are still 840 orders for the Boeing 787.

* Due to more efficient engines and less weight, the 787 will reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions by about 20%. Yet it still is able to go Mach .85, about the speed of its bigger siblings the 777 and 747.

* The aircraft has the largest windows in any passenger jetliner. This will provide a more open feel and give everyone a view to the outside. There are also no sunshades, but just a button which will cause the window to tint and block out the sun, but still have some ability to see outside.

* This plane was made to replace the highly successful Boeing 767. The 787-8 will be able to carry about 210-250 passengers around 8000 nautical miles, while the 787-9 will be able to carry 250-290 about 8250 nautical miles.

* With the 787’s range and ability to land at smaller airports, it will reduce the need for airlines to use hub systems and allow them to provide more non-stop flights. This of course lets passengers spend more time at their destination and less time getting there (however as an airline nerd, I love the process of getting there too, so maybe that is a negative for me?!) – Thanks Ian for pointing that out!

If those aren’t enough, it just looks really cool taking off with its wings flexing.

This is a very exciting time in aviation history. We just had the Boeing 787 Dreamliner take its first flight and now we wait for the Boeing 747-8 to take its first flight, which will probably be in about a month or so, which of course I will be following.

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EDITOR-IN-CHIEF & FOUNDER - SEATTLE, WA. David has written, consulted, and presented on multiple topics relating to airlines and travel since 2008. He has been quoted and written for a number of news organizations, including BBC, CNN, NBC News, Bloomberg, and others. He is passionate about sharing the complexities, the benefits, and the fun stuff of the airline business. Email me: david@airlinereporter.com

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13 Comments

Thanks DPB! This was very informative and cool. I wish the news media had provided even half of this information!!!

Haha, wow Carly that was quick. I was about to send you the link.

Carly was one of my friends on Facebook asking “why” 🙂

David

There are a lot of reasons to emphasize the 787’s long range. It can fly nearly to the far side of the world. It will open up routes between any city pairs wherever the economy supports it. It can serve more commercial airports, not just the largest hubs that have runways and terminals big enough to handle a 777, 747, A340 or A380. So even if airlines pack the seats in like sardines, as we know some airlines will do, you’ll have more nonstop routes when flying on the 787. On that point alone, it will change the world again the way every increase in aircraft range has. Everything else is gravy.

For example, from where I live in San Jose, California, the only places that could not be served nonstop by a 787-9 are South Africa, Madagascar and Diego Garcia.

Great point Ian, one that I forgot to make, but have added to my post!

David

Wooleybooley

Thanks for the info! It truly is a remarkable plane and to see the industry creating more efficient and much needed changes excites me for my future flights.

And the cockpit is going to become the new standard cockpit for all Boeing planes. The controls, the look, and the feel are so different from existing planes that you could probably devote an entire column to this part of the 787. please?

Love the blog–

I should have said flight deck… not cockpit

Great article, David. I was beginning to wonder what all the hype was over a new aircraft, and now I have a much better appreciation. I also never understood why the air was always so dry on metal planes, but now I know. Now if they would only put in some comfortable seats with some leg room. Can’t wait to fly on one – when are we going to start seeing commercial flights on these things?

If the flight testing goes according to plan, the first airline delivery will be to ANA (Japan) 9 months from now. We’ll gradually see more of them as they’re delivered and as the second factory in Charleston SC comes online.

One more advantage of a composite airliner for the airlines is that the plane will last longer. A metal plane has a limited number of “flight cycles” before mandatory retirement due to metal fatigue on the hull. The 8000′ pressurization we experience when flying is a compromise between stress on the hull and passenger comfort. I took a photo of a row of Boeing 767s parked at Mojave, which were retired after 25 years of service. http://ian.kluft.com/pics/mojave/mhv-flight-20090911/img_0234.jpg The carbon fiber composite structure of the 787 won’t have that limitation. So now there’s no compromise – we can have higher cabin air pressure for comfort *and* the plane will last longer. So we may eventually see over the years more tendency to upgrade the interiors and engines on 787s since the airframe will last longer. It’s different.

To me, this is the most important fact:

“Due to more efficient engines and less weight, the 787 will reduce fuel consumption and carbon emissions by about 20%. Yet it still is able to go Mach .85, about the speed of its bigger siblings the 777 and 747.”

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