787 Dreamliner Flies, Sigh Of Relief Heard Around the Nation

It’s only three years late, and, as the many are known to say, better late than never. I’m certain that many Boeing employees feel that way right now.

It could mean the difference between job and no job, for them, as well as some of their brethren that have been laid off in the last few years.

The story is a big one, as it made news in the UK, and was on the front page of the BBC site –

Boeing’s new 787 Dreamliner passenger aircraft has successfully completed its first test flight in the US.

The three-hour flight started and finished from Everett near Seattle. It was due to last longer, but the plane landed early because of heavy rain.

The 787 project had been delayed by two and a half years, due to a series of hitches, including design problems.

Boeing has pegged its hopes to the Dreamliner, which promises to be one of the world’s most fuel-efficient planes.

The take off and landing was watched by several thousand Boeing employees, industry guests and aircraft enthusiasts.

“It’s a major step-off point to the ultimate goal which is certification and customer delivery,” said Clay Jones, chief executive of aviation business Rockwell Collins.

“It’s an important milestone but it’s not the end goal.”

The Dreamliner will now go into nine months of continuous testing, with six planes flying around the clock.

May I get a seat? Please?

The Dreamliner has attracted some 840 orders from all over the globe, although some have been cancelled because of the delays.

Its popularity is partly thanks to its lightweight design. Made of carbon and titanium, it should reduce fuel consumption as well as save on maintenance costs.

The design aims to make the plane nimble and able to fly long distances without refuelling.

Howard Wheeldon, a transport analyst with BGC Partners, told the BBC World Service that it was a revolutionary project which would reshape aviation.

“This is an aircraft that changes the whole basis of flying, because of the equipment onboard,” he said.

“In terms of the cost of operation this is an 80% composite material aircraft, with 35 tonnes of carbon-fibre reinforced plastic, so it is a light aircraft – which means it burns less fuel.”

Its arch-rival, Airbus, also has a lightweight craft in development. Its A350 plane will also be made primarily from carbon-composite materials.

Airbus is also targeting a different market with its giant A380, a craft that can carry far larger numbers of passengers although it is limited to flying to those airports that are equipped for the double-decker aircraft.

With the insane things happening in the travel industry these days, something is needed to make things more efficient, and economical. And, instead of the profits going straight into the commercial airlines party funds, the ticket prices need to come down, and, more importantly, stabilize.

The 787 was first unveiled in July 2007 and is Boeing’s first all-new jet since 1995.

The newness of the Dreamliner design has meant a steep learning curve for Boeing and that, and the fact that the company ventured into wide-ranging outsourcing for the first time, has led to a raft of problems.

Early delays to the 787 project were caused by shortages of parts and the difficulties of bringing together fuselage and wing structures from Japan, Italy and elsewhere in the US.

Mr Wheeldon said: “There is a huge test programme – because everything is new. Essentially, it has to be proven, and proven again.”

Exactly how much profit Boeing can expect to make from the plane is uncertain.

Analysts say the company has invested more than $10bn in the project, and will have to give some sort of compensation to customers for late planes.

How late the planes are, and how they will perform, will not be known until all the flight tests are completed.

Boeing is not the only plane-maker hit by snags though.

Earlier this month, Airbus’s A400M military transport plane finally took to the skies in Spain for its first test flight after a series of delays.

Boeing has said it hopes to deliver the first plane by the end of 2010 to Japan’s All Nippon Airlines.

The airplane makers all seem to be suffering from the same problems. Perhaps they should do some study into why that is. Airbus is probably a great company, but I think we all would like to see the names of American companies associated with the planes used over the planet. The fact that we haven’t seen a meltdown like that of the car industry is a testament to the evenness of the airplane industry, which moves at a much slower pace than the car industry.

The fact that the world’s large plane makers seems to be down to two is a problem. There should be more competition, to keep things moving on the right path. Russia has plane makers, or they did, as they made huge planes for the exploits of the USSR, when it was trying to outdo the U.S. at every level. Perhaps we need to see a Russian plane enter the ring for the commercial airlines to bid on…

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Not a Dreamliner, but you can see some pics and a vid at the BBC site.

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