Ten Years Of The Boeing 787: A Look Back

**Update: 18/12/19 @ 17:00 UTC – Quote from Ethiopian Airlines included.**

It’s been 10 years since the first Boeing 787 made its very first flight. Already behind schedule, the flight would be followed by a turbulent journey of manufacturing problems and defects, leading to lengthy delays. However, with these problems being resolved, the 787 has greatly changed the commercial aviation space and the flights that airlines can now offer passengers.

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The 787’s first flight was originally set to be in 2007. Photo: Boeing

On December 15th, 2009, the aircraft took to the sky in front of an estimated crowd of 12,000 employees and guests at Paine Field in Everett. The aircraft took off at 10:27 a.m. local time, flying for three hours and landing at 1:33 p.m. at Seattle’s Boeing Field.

A true game-changer

Just last week Air Canada kicked-off two new routes: Vancouver-Auckland and Montreal-São Paulo. These long-distance, low-demand routes are made possible with the 787, as airlines would have trouble filling larger aircraft that have the same range capabilities. Houston to Sydney and Perth to London are currently some of the longest flights flown by the 787 Dreamliner.

“The airplane’s unparalleled fuel efficiency and range flexibility enables carriers to profitably open new routes as well as optimize fleet and network performance. And for their passengers, an experience like none other in the air, with more comfort and less fatigue.” -Boeing

In fact, the new and unique passenger features of the 787 included a drastically quieter cabin, larger dimmable windows, and improved humidity (the Dreamliner’s humidity level is 10-15%, compared to 4-7% typical in older airplanes.)

According to Market Realist, Boeing has received a total of 1,455 orders for the Dreamliner as of November – this includes 569 unfulfilled orders. Japanese carrier All Nippon Airways (ANA) was the launch customer for the aircraft. It now has over 70 Dreamliners in all three variants (-8, -9, and -10).

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ANA is going double daily between Sydney and Haneda. Photo: Toshi Aoki via Wikimedia Commons.

A turbulent entry into service

Despite all its technological innovations and features, the Dreamliner has had a troubled history; in fact, it continues to face criticism and scrutiny. In addition to a lengthy test-flight delay, the aircraft was also years late with its entry into service (EIS). Problems leading up to EIS included horizontal stabilizer issues, an engine blowout, and an electrical fire.

The problems didn’t end after the aircraft started flying passengers either. Here are a few of the more noteworthy incidents for the Dreamliner in its early years as documented by The Telegraph:

  • 2012 – A manufacturing error required repairs in the fuselage section of some Dreamliners. Engine defects and failures also happened the same year.
  • 2013 – A fire erupted in an empty Japan Airlines (JAL) Dreamliner. That same month JAL Dreamliners had several more fuel leak incidents. An ANA Dreamliner suffered a crack in the cockpit windshield. United Airlines also reported problems with wiring.

The incidents triggered investigations by both US National Transportation Safety Board and the Japanese Ministry of Transportation.

In 2014, Al Jazeera released a lengthy investigative documentary exposing allegations of on-the-job drug use, quality control problems and poor workmanship. Further reports of poor workmanship surfaced earlier this year as well.

In the last few years, Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines have been in the spotlight with blade issues. This has grounded a number of fleets – notably British Airways, Norwegian, and Air New Zealand. The most recent scrutiny is regarding the 787’s safety during lightning strikes.

United
The 787-10 is the latest member of the 787 family. Photo: United

Conclusion

“We strive to ensure our customers have the best experience when they fly with us. With the features the 787 has with its large windows, more abundant overhead storage, distinct lighting and the technology that senses and counters turbulence for a smoother ride, it all adds to the comfort we want our customers to experience. Celebrating milestones such as the tenth anniversary of the 787 Dreamliner is a remarkable accomplishment,” said Samson Arega Ethiopian Airlines Canada Country Manager.

The Dreamliner’s innovative technologies and incredible fuel efficiency have certainly come at the cost of lengthy delays due to mechanical/electrical issues. However, the daring concept has revolutionized commercial air travel. Furthermore, it has allowed for great advancements in what modern commercial aircraft are capable of. Hopefully, Boeing and Rolls-Royce can get their respective Dreamliner issues resolved so this beautiful aircraft can continue to fly.

Are you a fan of the 787? Share with us your memorable moments flying this aircraft over the years!

We reached out to several airlines that operate the 787 to get official statements. However, no airlines have responded at the time of publishing this article.

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