Boeing has marked ten years since delivering the first 787 Dreamliner to a customer. The next-generation widebody has been a hot seller in the marketplace. Airlines are eagerly awaiting the day when they can take even more of these aircraft and deploy them on new and existing routes to benefit from the Dreamliner’s efficiency and lower operating costs. With passenger-friendly improvements, it is even a favorite among travelers. Here is a look at the Boeing 787 over the last ten years.
The first Boeing 787 Delivery
September 26th, 2011, was a huge day for the Dreamliner program. After nearly a decade of development, planning, and sales, Boeing officially delivered the first-ever 787 to launch customer and Japanese carrier ANA.
A celebration marked the delivery. Over 500 employees who worked on the 787 program joined the crowd at an exclusive celebration adjacent to the factory where the airplane was assembled in Everett, Washington. Thousands more looked on from the surrounding areas.
Speaking at the event, then Boeing chairman, president, and CEO Jim McNerney stated the following:
“Today we celebrate a significant moment in the history of flight. The 787 Dreamliner is the biggest innovation in commercial aviation since the Boeing 707 introduced the world to passenger jet travel more than 50 years ago. I want to thank ANA and all the employees of Boeing and our partner companies for the talent, technology and teamwork that have brought this game-changing airplane to life.”
The development of the Boeing 787
The Boeing 787 started as a clean-sheet design in 2003 when it was first called the “7E7”. It was supposed to be an efficient midsized aircraft that focused on several key initiatives: efficiency, economics, environmental performance, exceptional comfort and convenience, and e-enabled systems.
At this point, the Boeing 767 was Boeing’s midsized market offering in the widebody space. Depending on the model, it sat between 200 and 250 passengers in standard two- or three-class configurations. However, the technology and efficiency that made the Boeing 767 a success were becoming outdated, and airlines were thinking about a new future.
ANA officially launched the 7E7 Dreamliner program on April 26th, 2004. It placed an order for 50 of the aircraft. Boeing had targeted 2008 as the year for entry into service. It was no coincidence that Boeing mentioned that ANA was the largest Boeing 767 operator outside of the United States at the time in the announcement of the 7E7 program.
Boeing wanted to create an incredibly versatile aircraft offering with the 7E7. The aircraft manufacturer initially proposed a 200- to 300-seat family of airplanes that could fly passengers anywhere from 3,500 to 8,500 nautical miles (6,500 to 16,000 kilometers). All of this is on top of improvements on the inside, including an interior with higher humidity for more comfort, larger windows, and more. By 2005, the plane was named the 787.
Delays impacted the Dreamliner project, however. From early 2008, the Dreamliner’s delivery timeline eventually slipped into 2011. The delays came from various sources, including unanticipated rework and later a strike of machinists.
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The 787 makes its first flight
On December 15th, 2009, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner flew for the first time. Taking off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, at 10:27 local time, the occasion came a few years after it was initially planned, but the excitement surrounding the aircraft was still brewing.
The first flight was the smaller Boeing 787-8. Boeing still had the 787-9 planned to enter flight testing, making its first flight in 2013. After making the first flight and concluding the test flight program, the first 787 was delivered to ANA on September 26th, 2011 – a little less than two years since the 787-8 made its first flight.
The 787 hits issues
In January 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all Boeing 787s. The reason was over concerns about a battery fire risk on the aircraft that impacted a few flights.
The first happened on January 7th, 2013, when a Japan Airlines Boeing 787 faced a battery fire while on the ground in Boston. However, another serious event occurred just a few days after Japan Airlines to an ANA 787, which had to make an emergency landing due to an onboard issue with a lithium-ion battery.
On April 19th, 2013, the FAA approved Boeing’s design modifications to the 787’s battery system to reduce the risk of an incident onboard an aircraft. Boeing’s Dreamliner then returned to service in the days and weeks after the manufacturer released the fix, and modifications were carried out on Dreamliners around the world.
The 787 has faced other problems since then. Currently, deliveries of the jets are paused due to FAA concerns on production quality issues on some Boeing 787s. Boeing and the FAA are still working on the problems, though it seems the resumption of deliveries may slip into October.
Still a successful aircraft
The success of the Boeing 787 should not be overlooked. The list of Boeing 787 Dreamliner customers or operators shows just how widespread attention this aircraft is receiving. This includes American Airlines, Lufthansa, United Airlines, Air France, KLM, British Airways, China Southern, ANA, Qantas, Ethiopian Airlines, LATAM, and more.
Boeing’s 787 family is comprised of three different models: 787-8, 787-9, and 787-10. The 787-8 comes in on the lower end of seating capacity, while the 787-10 hits the higher end. The 787-8 has a range of 7,305 nautical miles (13,530 kilometers), while the 787-10 has a range of 6,345 nautical miles (11,750 kilometers). However, the 787-9 is the long-range winner with a range of 7,530 nautical miles.
The 787-9 is also being put to use by major airlines with ultra-long-haul flying. American and United are both looking to fly the aircraft to Bangalore from Seattle and San Francisco, respectively. Qantas has notably used the aircraft to connect Australia with the United Kingdom nonstop. Air New Zealand has used the plane to fly to Chicago from Auckland and is even looking at using the jet to fly to the New York area.
One of the most prolific ultra-long-haul operators of the 787 is United. The airline has the 787-9 scheduled on the following routes over 7,900 miles long next June, according to data from Cirium:
- San Francisco to Singapore
- San Francisco to Bangalore
- Houston to Sydney
- Newark to Johannesburg
- Los Angeles to Melbourne
Even then, other airlines are also very likely to jump on the opportunity to fly more ultra-long-haul flights using the 787 Dreamliner. Just one example are nonstop flights between the US and Vietnam. Bamboo Airways, for example, is set to connect the US with Vietnam using a Dreamliner once it gets final certification for regularly scheduled nonstop commercial flights.
At the end of the day, Boeing has delivered over 1,000 total 787s in the last ten years, with a backlog of 491 aircraft. More orders are likely to come in once the industry makes a strong rebound out of the crisis. But, ten years after the first delivery, even with some of the aircraft’s issues, Boeing has produced a winner that has brought more people closer together.
What are your favorite memories of the 787 Dreamliner? Let us know in the comments!