Getting to Know the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Members of the aerospace industry, airlines, and anxious passengers excitedly await the arrival of the 787 Dreamliner, but what makes the Boeing 787 Dreamliner different? According to Boeing, the 787 Dreamliner is a “super-efficient airplane” that will please both airlines and passengers with its special features. While the 787-8 will carry between 210-250 passengers and the 787-9 series will carry between 250-290 passengers, the mid-sized aircraft boasts superior fuel efficiency (20% more efficient) and minimized environmental impact when compared to similarly-sized aircraft. For passengers, there will be a significant increase in comfort due to the use of more composites in the fuselage construction. The windows will be 65% larger than windows in current aircraft and will have an electrochromatic dimming function to eliminate the use of plastic pull-down shades. The cabin will be pressurized to a maximum altitude of 6,000 feet, which is 2,000 feet lower than most conventional passenger jets today. The ability to decrease this altitude lies in the composite fuselage design: aluminum airplanes do not allow for the pressurization at this level without raising structural concerns and would be weight prohibitive. According to altitude chamber tests conducted by Boeing, at an altitude of 6,000 feet the human body can absorb 8% more oxygen into the blood than at 8,000 feet, which will minimize the amount of headaches and fatigue to passengers.

The quality of the air in the cabin will also see an improvement. The humidity levels in the cabin will be increased due to the composite fuselage where there is less concern for corrosion effects. This will drastically improve passenger comfort by reducing the degree of “cotton mouth”. In addition to the standard High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) Filter included in many current passenger aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner will add a gaseous filtration system to remove odors and irritants that normally affect the passengers’ throats, eyes and noses.

The Boeing Company’s 787 Dreamliner has been making headlines recently as yet another delay has hit this already delay-plagued program. About 7 weeks ago, a Trent 1000 Rolls-Royce engine experienced a blowout at the test facility in the United Kingdom, and neither Boeing nor Rolls-Royce has been able to determine whether the issue was linked to the engine design or the testing method, according to an article by Howard Mustoe. Just two weeks ago, a power surge to a Trent 1000 engine on one of the test aircraft grounded that 787 until a replacement engine could be tested and installed. Boeing planned to have the 787 available for deliveries near the end of 2010; however, this date estimation was pushed back in July to early 2011 due to issues with the development of the horizontal stabilizers made by Italian supplier Alenia Aeronautica.

Despite the delays, Boeing has been pressing on since the program launched in April 2004. According to Boeing, the company began major assembly in June 2006, and the official rollout occurred on July 8, 2007 (07-08-07). Delays pushed back the originally scheduled flight test dates, but the aircraft completed its first flight in December 2009. To date the five test aircraft have completed 609 flights with over 1,876 hours of flight time.

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