US Aviation News

JAN 30 2012
Aviation News >> Boeing's 787 Dreamliner World Tour

With certification of the Boeing 787 complete for the Rolls Royce powered version, Boeing has embarked on a worldwide tour with the aircraft. The focus has been on taking the aircraft to locations that either have a strong association with the development of the aircraft or are operators that have ordered the aircraft or are prospective customers.

Rockford was one of the stops on the second section of the tour. Details of the tour can be found at www.newairplane.com/787/dreamtour/ and it is updated as details get firmed up. Rockford is the location of Hamilton Sundstrand. As a major supplier of systems for the aircraft as well as for the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine, the team has been working on the 787 for seven years. Additionally, Rockwell Collins, based in Cedar Rapids Iowa, is the provider of the cockpit avionics.

The visit provided a chance for Boeing to show off the aircraft to the local media as well as provide a chance for the teams that had been working on the development program to get a chance to see the aircraft in person. During the course of the stay, approximately 1,100 Hamilton Sundstrand and 300 Rockwell Collins employees had the chance to look at the aircraft.

The airframe in question was the third development aircraft, ZA003. This aircraft had been heavily involved in the development program including the environmental testing work in the climate chamber in Florida. Once its testing work was completed, it was given a refurbishment program that included adding different interior layouts to demonstrate the potential configurations of the aircraft. When the tour is complete, the work for this aircraft will be complete and it will join two of the other development aircraft in retirement. The other three development aircraft will be refurbished for sale to customers. VIP conversions are the likely future for those jets.

The history of the 787 has been extensively reported so it is not intended to go over the steps that have been taken to get the jet certificated. It is now in service and Mike Sinnett, Vice President and Chief Project Engineer, 787, took time to tell us about the next steps for the aircraft. While the majority of the development program has been completed, there are still further tasks. "Development is never completely finished. We continue to work on enhancements to the avionics with TCAS updates for European operators." The certification of the GE GenX engine is also due shortly.

Further downstream is the development of the 787-9 aircraft. The launch customer for this is Air New Zealand. Sinnett says development is well in hand for this version. "With approximately 50 extra seats, this will be a very valuable aircraft for our customers." When asked whether it might actually end up being a better seller than the 787-8, he agreed this might well be the case. The potential 787-10 is also being evaluated.

Launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) now has five aircraft delivered. Sinnett was very pleased with their performance to date. "The 787 is currently delivering 96.3% which is excellent for an aircraft so early in its service." ANA started operation with relatively short length operations but have just introduced their first aircraft to long haul operations on the Tokyo to Frankfurt route. The introduction has been very smooth.

Boeing doesn't announce when individual customers will take delivery. They let the customers make their own announcements about deliveries being made. However, the focus is presently on delivering aircraft that are currently coming through the production process. Production is now running at 2.5 aircraft per month but there are a large number of airframes that have already been produced which will require rework to bring them up to the certification standard.

"The aircraft coming off the line now are having very little traveled work." (Traveled work is deferred tasks from the production schedule.) Therefore, delivering them is more straightforward. The existing airframes are going through a rework program and will be progressively delivered as this is complete. Meanwhile, production will increase progressively. "We will go to 10 aircraft per month but there will be a series of steps to achieve that level that will be achieved progressively."

The aircraft has many interesting features. Some of these were visible when touring the aircraft while others are expected to be more apparent in the air. The seating configurations and the main entrance arch were features that Boeing was keen to show. How individual airlines will configure their aircraft we will have to see. Some of the features will be common, though. The electrochromic window shades replace the traditional blinds. They can be controlled by the passenger or centrally. It takes about 90 seconds to go from clear to fully dark. A progressive tint can also be applied.

For those who carry a lot of carry-on baggage, the new overhead bins will be of interest. They can hold a 22" roller bag on its side which allows 4 to fit in one bin. The amount of space means that the centre bins are not included in the standard business class section providing a very open feel. The head clearance in the centre section of the economy cabin was still good even with the bins installed.

The cabin altitude is 6,000' at cruise altitude as opposed to the previous standard of 8,000'. This is said to provide a significant improvement in comfort. Additionally, humidity levels are higher than before which is supposed to similarly improve comfort. Since the aircraft was on the ground, it was not possible to verify this but it won't be long before 787s are a common sight in our skies at which point we will be able to judge for ourselves. New customers will be taking delivery of their aircraft soon. United Airlines had two pilots on board the flight bringing the jet to Rockford. One of them was in the left seat for landing with Boeing 787 Project Test Pilot Heather Ross in the right seat.

One of Boeing's aircraft recently made a round the world flight from Seattle eastbound with one stop in Dhaka, Bangladesh before completing the loop. This was a record speed for this class of aircraft and demonstrated the long legs the aircraft has. On both legs it was airborne for over 20 hours. In order to achieve such long ranges, additional crew will be required and crew rest space is substantial. Two rest areas were on display on the test aircraft, one forward and one aft. The rest areas are in the crown of the aircraft and the space is considered substantial by Boeing, courtesy of the application of new technologies that reduce the space required above the cabin for systems.

The 787 will be continuing its tour of the world so look to see if it comes close to you. It is a new experience at the moment to see a 787. However, with a backlog of over 800 aircraft, they will soon be a very common sight in the skies.

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