By David Parker Brown, AirlineReporter.com
It has been a few months since All Nippon Airways (ANA) put the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner into service and there have been mixed reviews on the aircraft’s experience.
The 787 has been heralded by many (including myself) as being a revolutionary aircraft, but it seems that only some see it as a smaller evolutionary change.
When airlines started to switch from prop aircraft to jets in the late 1950’s, it was quite obvious that the change was a revolution for airlines. Passengers could see, feel, and hear the difference: they were quieter, smoother running, and flew the route faster. How the 787 is different is not as obvious as it was from props to jets, but it doesn’t mean they are any less important.
I was lucky enough to have an opportunity to fly on the 787 Dreamer and I can see where people might not realize how different the aircraft is from current airliners. You walk on the plane and notice some fancy lighting and larger windows, but essentially it’s still just an airplane with windows and seats. And that is where the 787 fools you: the revolution comes from things that most people are not able to see.
In the game of airlines, weight equals money. The more an aircraft weighs, the more it costs to fly it around the world. Most previously built airliners are produced by bolting a bunch of aluminum panels onto a heavy frame, but the 787 is constructed using mostly composite materials, which are much lighter. The savings in weight results in—you guessed it—saving money. And saving money allows them to improve their operation.
Another aspect that will probably go unnoticed is the pressurization of the cabin. Current airlines fly with a pressurization equivalent to breathing at 8,000 feet, while the Dreamliner is 6,000. The improved pressure level has been shown to reduce jetlag, making the flying experience that much better – especially on those long flights. The Dreamliner’s ventilation system also allows there to be more humidity in the cabin than other aircraft there by reducing the dryness that most passengers experience during flight.
In my opinion one of the biggest changes is the 787s ability to fly new, long distance routes that do not make economic sense using current airframes like the Airbus A330 and Boeing 767. Japan Airlines (JAL) has already announced a new route between Boston and Tokyo, ANA has announced using the Dreamliner on new flights between Seattle and San Jose to Tokyo and Continental (before the United merger) announced a flight between Houston and Auckland. These are all new routes that were not economically viable before the 787. As a result airlines will continue to offer more direct flights because of this aircraft. Passengers will not have to experience as many layovers, which can last multiple hours for international flights. The Dreamliner allows airlines to offer more point-to-point flights like never before.
At first glance, one might not realize how different the 787 Dreamliner is from current aircraft, but it will change how airlines fly their passengers and how passengers interact with the flying experience. I have no question that the Dreamliner truly is a revolution in the skies and I cannot wait for more to start flying passengers around the globe.