While we extol the technical advances and human friendly environment in Boeing’s forthcoming 787 Dreamliner over 18 pages in this issue, there’s still the sobering reality of flying today. Generally, it stinks. Airlines stuff you into seats packed tighter than teeth, lose your luggage, leave late and are generally unresponsive to complaints (United is my least favorite these days). As I ticked off the advances in the 787 to a colleague who flies a lot, he responded cynically, “the airlines will just pack it with more seats in.”
Can a plane like the 787 help reverse the misery we call flying? For sure, standard features like a constant cabin pressure at 6,000 feet, smoother ride, improved humidity and lighting characteristics, bigger windows and large carry-on bins will help. But it’s up to the airlines to improve the flying experience. The 787’s immediate predecessor, the 777, improved upon the interiors in earlier models, but I took my first 777 flight only last year – 13 years after the plane started flying.
In other words, your chances of getting a flight on a 787 any time next year are complicated by a couple of factors. Even though the 787 had racked up an impressive 544 orders at this writing, it’ll take time for the airplane to permeate the airline’s rosters. Among major American airlines, only Continental and Northwest have publicly ordered any 787s not including deals for 78 planes from “unidentified customers.” Big Boeing customers like United and Delta are still recovering from bankruptcy and downsizing. Asian airlines, on the other hand, are snapping up 787s. Granted, American airlines have encountered a lot of bumpy air for years, now, but it’s important to paint a realistic picture of what the 787 means to domestic air travelers. Probably not much for a few years.
On the engineering side, the new plane means a lot -- from the innovative composites to how pieces of it were designed by companies around the world. Final assembly done at Boeing’s huge Everett, Wash. plant is projected to take a mere there days! The 787 encompasses many technical, design and manufacturing innovations. So we challenge any other engineering publication to beat the thoroughness and depth of our 787 coverage. Boeing 787 communications specialist Jennifer Cram gave us access to many of the Dreamliner’s top engineers whose time, needless to say, is in short supply these days. Jennifer, we can’t thank you enough.
The plane is scheduled to roll out on July 8 (7-8-7) and to fly for the first time within two to three months. Until the 787 flies, it’s not really an airplane. Boeing likes to tout that it’s “11 for 11” in passenger jetliners although it’s still not clear me why 11. Not counting its McDonnell Douglas models and the 787, it looks more like 8 for 8 with respect to jetliners unless they’re counting prop or military planes. Needless to say, the 787 needs to fly. Our exhaustive coverage begins on page xx and online at www.designnews.com/boeing
The response to my global warming column in the April 30 issue was unprecedented….more than 50 responses and counting. Many are long and thoughtful. They’re all posted on my Designing Engineering at Large blog if you’re curious about what your colleagues believe (or disbelieve) about global warming.
What impresses you most about the 787? Write me at email@example.com or comment at my blog Design Engineering At Large.