September is a big month in history for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. On September 26th, 2011, the highly-anticipated first 787 Dreamliner delivery occurred with much fanfare to Japan’s ANA. After a series of delays as Boeing worked to get its clean-sheet widebody in the skies, the event marked the start of more efficient long-haul flying and intense competition with Airbus.
The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner delivery
On September 26th, hundreds of Boeing employees working on the 787 program celebrated the first delivery of a Dreamliner to launch customer ANA right next to the factory where Boeing assembles the Dreamliner. For Boeing’s employees, this represented nearly a decade of hard work to get a fuel-efficient, economical, next-generation widebody to market. For ANA, the 787 proved key to the Japanese carrier’s international expansion plans and pursued being one of the best airlines in the world in passenger comfort and service experience.
Bringing the 787 to market was no small task. In 2003, Boeing designated the “7E7” as its next-generation aircraft focused on “efficiency, economics, environmental performance, exceptional comfort and convenience, and e-enabled systems.”
In 2004, Boeing officially launched the “7E7 Dreamliner” with an order for 50 of the type from ANA. Then, the only firm details were that the aircraft would be expected to enter into commercial service from 2008 and hit the 200-to 300- seat market with a range between 3,500 and 8,500 nautical miles (or about 6,500 to 16,000 kilometers).
As can happen with clean-sheet aircraft designs, Boeing hit some delays as it worked out kinks such as slower-than-expected completion, structural issues with the side-of-body section, and a strike, among others, that finally led to the first flight of the Boeing 787-8 on December 15th, 2009.
Less than two years later, ANA took its first 787-8 Dreamliner.
ANA’s 787-8 Dreamliner
ANA’s 787-8 Dreamliner comes in three layouts. The first is a short- and medium-haul configuration with 240 seats onboard. This comprises 42 business class seats in a six-abreast configuration and 198 economy class seats in the standard nine-abreast setup.
The other two are lightly-loaded international aircraft. One version with 184 seats offers room for 32 in forward-facing lie-flat business class in a 1-2-1 setup, 14 recliner-style premium economy seats in a 2-3-2 configuration, and 138 economy class seats in a classic 3-3-3 configuration.
The final 164-seater international variant is even more premium with 46 business class seats, 21 in premium economy, and 102 economy class seats in the same layout as described above.
JA801A, the first 787-8 ever delivered, is configured for regional flying in East Asia with the 240-seat configuration. This plane is also the oldest 787-8 in commercial passenger service.
Recent developments with the 787
On September 17th, Boeing celebrated seven years since the maiden flight of the 787-9, the longest-range variant of the Dreamliner program. However, this came at a backdrop of uncertainty.
The 787 program has come under a lot of scrutiny. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently put forth a Special Airworthiness Information Bulletin warning Dreamliner pilots about an ILS issue. This came just weeks after the FAA uncovered a problem with the Dreamliner tail fin. A few days before that, there was an issue with the horizontal stabilizer on the 787s, and after eight Dreamliners were grounded over structural worries, the FAA was weighing inspections.
Furthermore, against the backdrop of the ongoing crisis, Boeing appears to be getting ready to move all 787 production, for at least the next few years if not indefinitely, to its North Charleston facility in South Carolina.
It has not been all bad news with the 787, however. The Dreamliner was a part of an intense and promising ecoDemonstrator project. Boeing’s customers have been huge fans of the 787, with new operator Vistara using the type to fly to London. Vietnam’s Bamboo Airways is also eyeing major international growth thanks to the aircraft.
What is more, United Airlines has shown that the 787-8 can unlock some new and exciting routes, such as from Washington-Dulles to Accra in Ghana and Lagos in Nigeria, from San Francisco to Papeete, and more.
Even though there are some problems, which Boeing and regulators are working to address, the 787 remains a favorite for airlines and customers alike.
What is your favorite memory of the 787-8 Dreamliner? Are you a fan of the 787? Let us know in the comments!