insight - Boeing 787
Written by Roger Thiedeman
Boeing 787: The Right Stuff That Dreams Are Made Of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, the latest addition to Qatar Airways’ fleet, represents one of the most significant milestones in commercial aircraft history alongside such classics as the Douglas DC-3, Boeing 747, and Airbus A380.
Two world leaders in civil aviation took centre-stage at Britain’s prestigious Farnborough Air Show in July this year. Qatar Airways and Boeing shared the spotlight when the Doha-based airline took delivery of its first 787 Dreamliner, which had flown direct from Seattle, Washington, to the UK for its maiden public appearance in the livery of Qatar Airways, the 787’s Middle East launch customer. On each of the show’s first three days, the new Dreamliner thrilled onlookers with a spectacular seven-minute flying display at the hands of Boeing test pilots. When not doing its thing aloft, the aircraft was open to inspection for guests from the travel trade, aviation industry, and media.
Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said that the airline’s presence at the largest aviation event of its kind for the unveiling of the first Qatar Airways 787 Dreamliner “provides the perfect opportunity and global platform to proudly reveal our new 787 to the aviation industry and the wider public for the first time…and signals the start of an exciting new chapter for travel in the Middle East and worldwide.” He added that Qatar Airways is “very excited that a new era of air travel with an unrivalled passenger experience is imminent, further proving Qatar Airways’ commitment to expansion with one of the youngest and most technically advanced fleets in the industry.”
But there was more icing on Qatar Airways’ cake at Farnborough: the airline was adjudged ‘Best Airline of the Year’ by the respected Skytrax airline research/survey organisation for the second consecutive year.
As the 20th century was drawing to a close, Boeing began planning replacements for its popular but ageing 767 and 747-400 airliners. A proposal for a Sonic Cruiser – a modern incarnation of the supersonic Concorde – was considered but cancelled for a variety of reasons. However, as a concept for a new, more conventional subsonic airliner started evolving, it was decided to incorporate elements of Sonic Cruiser technology in its design. This was given the working title ‘7E7’, later changed to ‘787’, with the type name ‘Dreamliner’ added in response to a public naming competition.
Importantly, with airlines becoming more focused on efficiency than speed, the 787 was conceived as a smaller medium-size twin-jet but with long-haul capability. In April 2004 the project received an impetus when All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan became the launch customer for two variants: the 787-3 for domestic flights; and the 787-8, the ‘base model’, for long-haul services. Boeing would later announce plans for the 787-9 with stretched fuselage and ultra-long-range capability.
From the outset, the 787 was designed as a ‘composite airliner’, the world’s first, with its fuselage assembled in one-piece barrel sections constructed from composite materials mainly comprising carbon-fibre, which account for 50% of the aircraft’s primary structure, including the fuselage and wings. This gives the Dreamliner those two much-desired elements of aircraft construction: lightness and strength. Aerodynamic advances and a choice of two new-generation engine types – Qatar Airways selected the General Electric GEnx – ensured that the 787 would set new standards for fuel efficiency and environmental performance. That promise has already been fulfilled since the 787 entered airline service (with ANA) in October last year.
Its structural strength and environmental friendliness aside, the 787 boasts several other features that make it a very special aircraft, especially from the passengers’ viewpoint. Noise levels both inside and out have been reduced, while the cabin air supply is pressurised to a lower ‘altitude’ than usual. Coupled with higher oxygen content, this leaves Dreamliner passengers feeling much less tired at the end of a flight than on any other jetliner past and present.
But the first thing passengers will notice even before their 787 takes off is the enormous size of the windows. The largest ever fitted to an airliner, they give window seat passengers the best view they will ever enjoy while flying; better still, the windows are big enough for passengers in adjacent seats to also take a peek outside!
And if you think size is all that matters with the 787’s windows, think again. In another first for commercial airliners, Boeing has eliminated those sliding window shades and introduced an electronic dimming facility. At the touch of a button, the window can be darkened or brightened according to individual passenger preference, the darkest setting almost replicating a nocturnal view even when it’s bright daylight outside. However, for safety during takeoff and landing, cabin crew override all existing settings by remote control, raising them to full brightness.
The 787-8 delivered to Qatar Airways at Farnborough was the first of 30 Dreamliners ordered by the airline, with options held for another 30. Ultimately, Qatar Airways expects to operate a mixed fleet of 787-8s and 787-9s, giving the carrier the flexibility to deploy its ultra-modern Dreamliners to best advantage over a wide variety of sectors throughout its ever-expanding network.
Qatar Airways Puts ‘Dream’ into Dreamliner
The 787 Dreamliners of Qatar Airways feature a host of amenities that make them amongst the most luxurious and passenger-friendly airliners plying the skies. For example, the Business and Economy Class seats, which debuted at the 2012 ITB Berlin travel fair, are custom-built to a revolutionary design unique to the airline. Big on space and comfort, the Business seats are configured 1-2-1 and convert into fully flat horizontal beds, giving every guest unobstructed access to an aisle. In Economy Class the cabin has a 3-3-3 layout. The award-winning iTouch control in-flight entertainment system offers 1,000 movies, programming, and audio entertainment options. In addition, every seat is supplied with an iPort, USB port, and remote data outlet, while a custom-designed menu, generous space for personal items, and many more ‘goodies’ are available in both cabin classes.
The 787 structure comprises 50% composites and 20% aluminium, compared to 12% and 50%, respectively, on the Boeing 777. Other materials used on the 787 (and their percentages) are: titanium (15%); steel (10%); others (5%).
Number of holes drilled into fuselage during assembly:
If an errant ramp vehicle has a minor collision with a Dreamliner, the aircraft need not be grounded for repairs, as is usual practice. Put simply, a ‘patch’ can be applied to the damaged carbon-fibre ‘skin’, allowing the 787 to continue flying with passengers; only when the aircraft returns to base would a permanent repair be effected.
Length (m) 57