Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The 787 Dreamliner is Boeing's latest all-new airliner, a medium-size twin-engined widebody jet with 200 to 335 seats and primarily intended for long-haul flights. The aircraft has had a difficult development and production start, but from the beginning it is a big sales success.
Boeing has a completely different vision on long-haul traffic than Airbus. Airbus's A380 megajet is intended to connect big hub-and-spoke-airports with each other, but according to Boeing such airports will become less important because airlines fly more direct services between smaller airports, bypassing the hubs. For this purpose they need smaller aircraft, like the 787.
The 787 was originally designated '7E7' (E stood for 'efficient') and it uses much of the technology intended for the Sonic Cruiser project, a proposed futuristic looking airliner flying at Mach 0,98, almost as fast as the speed of sound. Boeing cancelled the Sonic Cruiser in the wake of the 9-11 assaults in 2001. Airlines wanted more fuel-efficient aircraft and because of its high speed, the Sonic Cruiser would be too thirsty. After 2001 Boeing started work on a slower and more conventional, but very state-of-the-art new airliner.
The Dreamliner incorporates a lot of new technology. Its engines (General Electric GEnx or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000) use about 8 percent less fuel compared with earlier engines in the same class. Thanks to other improvements, like aerodynamic refinements and the use of light-weight composite materials, Boeing claims a total fuel saving of 20 percent for the 787 in comparison with earlier airliners like the 767. The extensive use of composite materials - 50 per cent of the primary structure - makes the 787 much lighter than when it would be built completely of aluminium. That saves fuel and makes production easier. Large parts of the fuselage can be built as one piece, eliminating thousands of separate parts and fasteners.
Boeing officially rolled-out the first 787 on 8 July 2007 (7-8-07 in American English notation). But soon afterwards the aircraft manufacturer had to admit that it suffered major setbacks. The first flight was originally planned for August 2007 and first delivery for May 2008, but the 787 didn't fly earlier than on 15 December 2009. Boeing met a lot of problems, including a shortage of fasteners, problems with software and system integration, a strike and lots of extra work because subassemblies of the aircraft delivered by sub-contractors were not complete.
Boeing obtained type certification from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in August 2011 and delivered the first aircraft in September 2011, more than three years later than originally planned. Launch customer All Nippon Airways started commercial service with the Dreamliner on 26 October 2011.
In service the 787 suffered more big problems. The most severe was the ignition of lithium-ion batteries. Fires led to the grounding of all 787s by the FAA and other aviation agencies from 16 January 2013. Although the cause wasn't found, Boeing revised the battery design to make it safer and after FAA approval the 787 resumed flying on 26 April 2013.
The first 787-version to enter service was the 787-8, which carries 210-250 passengers over distances up to 14,200 or, as an option, even 15,200 km (7,650 - 8,200 nm). The second version is the stretched 787-9, seating 250-290 passengers and with a range of 14,800 to 15,750 km (8,000 to 8,500 nm). The 787-9 flew for the first time on 17 September 2013 and deliveries started in July 2014. Air New Zealand and All Nippon Airways commenced commercial service in August 2014. The third 787-family member will be the further stretched 787-10, seating op to 330 passengers in a three-class configuration. It is intended as a replacement for the Boeing 777-200 and the Airbus A330 and A340. Deliveries should begin in 2018. Boeing stopped the development of a short-range 787-3 at an early stage of the programme.
The final assembly of the 787-8 and 787-9 is taking place in two factories: in Everett, Washington, and in North Charleston, South Carolina. The 787-10 will be produced only in North Charleston.
The problems with the 787 contrast with the tremendous sales success that the 787 is so far. Until mid 2016 Boeing has sold more than 1,150 aircraft: 429 787-8s, 572 787-9s and 153 787-10s. On 17 March 2015 the aircraft manufacturer delivered the 250th 787, which was also the first 787-9 built in North Charleston, to United Airlines.
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