Boeing 787 Dreamliner
By Alexander Czarnecki (20 October 2010)
The Boeing 787, a twin-aisle widebody jet airliner, is set to change the face of commercial aviation. Made with 50 percent composites, Boeing touts the Dreamliner as "the most environmentally-friendly aircraft ever manufactured."
The 787 was borne out of studies in the late 1990s for a Sonic Cruiser intended to replace the 767 in face of stiff competition from the Airbus A330. Initially some airlines (mostly from the US) showed interest, albeit with concerns about the operating costs. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers spelled the end on the Sonic Cruiser concept. Crude oil prices increased which made airlines more interested in efficiency than speed. The worst affected airlines, those in the United States, were considered the most likely Sonic Cruiser customers. Because of this, the company officially cancelled the Sonic Cruiser on December 20, 2002 and instead concentrated on an alternative product, the 7E7, on January 29, 2003. 
The 7E7 was part of Boeing Yellowstone Project, intended to replace existing Boeing projects. The "E" was said to stand for various things, such as "efficiency" or "environmentally friendly." However when the aircraft was given the designation "787", Boeing claimed the "E" merely stood for "Eight".  A public naming competition was also held; out of the 500,000 votes cast online the winning title was Dreamliner. 
The B787 Dreamliner has an unprecedented level of composite construction. The aircraft will be made of 50% composites with the remainder made up of aluminium (20%), titanium (15%), steel (10%), and other materials (5%).  It is the first commercial airliner to have the fuselage and wings made entirely out of carbon fiber instead of aluminium.  This enables Boeing to save around 4,500 kilograms of weight, the equivalent of 53 passengers! The cabin will also be noticeably wider--547 cm at armrest level. 
According to Boeing, "An open architecture will be at the heart of the 787's systems, which will be more simplified than today's airplanes and offer increased functionality. For example, the team is looking at incorporating health-monitoring systems that will allow the airplane to self-monitor and report maintenance requirements to ground-based computer systems."
The 787 is initially being offered in two variants, the standard 787-8, and the stretched 787-9. Production problems on the base 787-8 model led Boeing to postpone the introduction of the 787-3 in April 2008, following the 787-9 but without a firm delivery date. Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways then converted their orders to the 787-8. Boeing is studying the introduction of a further stretched 787-10 to compete with the Airbus A350-900.  A freighter version will probably follow in 10-15 years.  The 787-8 will carry 210-250 passengers 14,200 to 15,200 km, while the larger 787-9 will carry 250-290 passengers 14,800 to 15,750 km.
Boeing also eliminated an entire aircraft system! The conventional engine bleed-air-driven pneumatic system has been replaced with a more efficient motor-driven air-compression system.  This new technology will produce over a megawatt of electricity, enough to power 250 homes! The advantages of this are greater efficiency, resulting on decreased fuel burn, and improved reliability. Removing the pneumatic system will result in simplified onboard aircraft systems and will save hundreds of kilograms of weight.
In a first, the window shades have been eliminated from the aircraft and have been replaced with electronic dimming windows. The cabin windows are also larger than all other in-service civil air transports (27cm by 47cm), with a higher eye level. Electrochromism-based auto-dimming reduces cabin glare while still allowing the outside to be viewed.  Cabin lighting will now be LED based with three LED colors instead of fluorescent tubes. To also improve cabin comfort, the internal pressure will be increased to the equivalent of 1,800m altitude instead of the 2,400m on conventional aircraft. Boeing states this will reduce the effects of jetlag. 
Concerning engines, Boeing is offerring the Boeing 787 Dreamliner with two engine choices: the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, or the General Electric GEnx. The Trent 100 has been developed from the successful Trent 900 found on the A380. The GEnx is an all-new engine and is the only jet engine with both the fan case and the fan blades made of composites, which will provide greater engine reliability, weight reduction, and lower operating costs. GE says this engine will provide 15% better fuel consumption, stay on wing 30% longer and use 30% less parts. The emissions levels will be up to 95% lower than regulatory limits. 
The Boeing 787 is being assembled at the Boeing plant in Seattle, Washington. This will intended to result in leaner and simpler assembly line. In a first for Boeing, the aircraft's major parts are being subcontracted out. In a manner reminiscent of Airbus, the complete aircraft subassemblies are flown to the final assembly line in Seattle in a fleet of specially modified Boeing 747s, nicknamed Dreamlifters.
The 787 has been extremely popular with airlines with 847 firm orders as of August 3, 2010. ILFC is the largest customer with 74 Boeing 787s on order. Japan's All Nippon Airways is the launch customer, with the first 787-8 due to be delivered by the year's end. New Zealand's Air New Zealand is the launch customer for the 787-9.
However, not all was rosy for Boeing. Airbus announced a competitor in the A350. In addition, the 787 prototype rolled out on July 8, 2007, was not structurally complete. This forced a delay in the first flight from the originally planned 3rd quarter 2007, to the 4th quarter 2008. Then 27,000 Boeing employees, members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union, went on strike for 58 days, starting from September 6 2008.  With other delays, the 787 finally flew on December 15, 2009, 10:27am PST, two years behind schedule. 
Three more 787s joined ZA001 by March 2010 to complete the flight-testing program. With the first four 787s built with the Trent 1000, on May 12, 2010 Boeing conducted the first General Electric GEnx engine runs on a Dreamliner using ZA005, the fifth 787 built and the first with the GEnx engine.  As of August 2010, the five 787 test aircraft have flown a total of 1,443 hours, 35 minutes in 462 flights.  The Boeing 787 Dreamliner made its international debut landing at Farnborough Airport on July 18, 2010, flying nonstop from Seattle Washington to Farnborough, UK. 
However, above all these delays, the Boeing 787 promises to fulfil these expectations. Moreover, with a full order book, airlines clearly want the 787. As Airliners magazine once put it, "For Boeing the goal is simple, put the past delays behind and focus on the future."
- Boeing Commercial Airplanes http://www.boeing.com/
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- Microsoft Flight Simulator X Gold Edition, Aircraft by Project Opensky http://www.projectopensky.com/ and Camsim http://pages.infinit.net/camsim/
- Airliner World 787 Supplement, March 2009, Key Publishing Ltd http://airlinerworld.com/
- Airliner World, September 2007, Key Publishing Ltd http://airlinerworld.com/
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- Airliner World, September 2007 (Dreamliner Debut)
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