Boeing 787.

A collection of international Boeing 787 images.


Background Information.


During the late 1990s, Boeing considered replacement aircraft programs as sales of the Boeing 767 and 747-400 series  slowed. Two new aircraft were proposed. The first, the Boeing 747X would have lengthened the 747-400 and improved its efficiency. The second aircraft, called the ‘Sonic Cruiser’ would have achieved a 15% higher speed (approximately Mach 0.98) while burning fuel at the same rate as the Boeing 767. Market interest for the 747X was tepid to say the least.  However, several major American airlines, including Continental Airlines, showed initial enthusiasm for the Sonic Cruiser, although concerns about its operating cost were also expressed. The global airline market was disrupted by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York and a general increase in petroleum prices, making airlines more interested in efficiency than speed.

The worst-affected airlines, those in the United States, had been considered the most likely customers of the Sonic Cruiser. The Sonic Cruiser was officially cancelled on December 20, 2002. On January 29, 2003 Boeing announced an alternative product, the Boeing 7E7, using Sonic Cruiser technology in a more conventional configuration.

The emphasis on a smaller midsize twinjet rather than a large 747-size aircraft represented a shift from the ‘hub-and-spoke’ concept to a ‘point-to-point’ concept was the main outcome express by various focus groups that were now re-evaluating air transportation in light of changing world events. Randy Baseler, Boeing Commercial Airplanes VP Marketing stated that airport congestion was caused mainly by large numbers of regional jets and smaller older single-aisle airliners flying to destinations where a 550-seat Airbus A380 would be too large. In order to reduce the number of departures, smaller aircraft with an increase of 20% in size and airline hubs can be avoided by employing the ‘point-to-point’ concept.

In 2003, a recent addition to the Boeing board of directors, James McNerney (who would become Boeing's Chairman and CEO in 2005), supported the need for a new aircraft to regain market share from Airbus. The directors on Boeing's board, Harry Stonecipher  (Boeing's President and CEO) and John McDonnell issued a directive to ‘develop an aircraft for less than 40 percent of what the Boeing 777  had cost to develop 13 years earlier, and build each plane out of the gate for less than 60 percent of the 777's unit costs in 2003’. They approved a development budget estimated at US$7 billion as Boeing management claimed that they would ‘require subcontractors to foot the majority of costs’.

The replacement for the Sonic Cruiser project was named the Boeing 7E7,  (with a development code name of ‘Y2’). Technology from the Sonic Cruiser and 7E7 was to be used as part of Boeing's project to replace its entire airliner product line, an endeavor called the ‘Yellowstone Project’, of which the 7E7 was to be the first stage. Early concept images of the 7E7 included rakish cockpit windows, a dropped nose and a distinctive ‘shark-fin’ tail. The ‘E’ was said to stand for various things, such as ‘efficiency’ or ‘environmentally friendly’, however, in the end, Boeing said that it merely stood for ‘Eight’. In July 2003, a public naming competition was held for the 7E7, for which out of 500,000 votes cast online the winning title was Dreamliner. Other names included eLiner, Global Cruiser, and Stratoclimber.

On April 26, 2004, Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) became the launch customer for the 787, announcing a firm order for 50 aircraft with deliveries to begin in late 2008. The ANA order was initially specified as 30 787-3, a 290–330 seat, one-class domestic aircraft, and 20 787-8, long-haul, 210–250 seat, two-class aircraft for regional international routes such as Tokyo (Narita) - Beijing, and could fly routes to cities not previously served, such as Denver, Moscow and New Delhi. The 787-3 and 787-8 were to be the initial variants, with the 787-9 entering service in 2010.

The 787 was designed to be the first production airliner with the fuselage comprising one-piece composite barrel sections instead of the multiple aluminium sheets and some 50,000 fasteners used on existing aircraft. Boeing selected two new engines to power the 787, the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 and the General Electric GEnx. Boeing stated that the 787 would be approximately 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the 767, with approximately 40 percent of the efficiency gain from the engines, plus gains from aerodynamic improvements, the increased use of lighter-weight composite materials and advanced systems. The airframe underwent extensive structural testing during its design. The Boeing 787-8 and -9 were intended to have a certified 330 minute ETOPS capability. Boeing initially priced the 787-8 variant at US$120 million, a low figure that surprised the industry. In 2007, the list price was US$146 - 151.5 million for the 787-3, US$157 - 167 million for the 787-8 and US$189 - 200 million for the 787-9.

On June 15, 2009, during the Paris Air Show Boeing said that the 787 would make its first flight within two weeks. However, on June 23, 2009, the first flight was postponed due to structural reasons. Boeing provided an updated 787 schedule on August 27, 2009, with the first flight planned to occur by the end of 2009 and deliveries to begin at the end of 2010. The company expected to write off US$2.5 billion because it considered the first three Dreamliners built unsellable and suitable only for flight tests. On October 28, 2009, Boeing selected Charleston, SC as the site for a second 787 production line, after soliciting bids from multiple states.

The first 787 completed high speed taxi tests, the last major step before flight on December 12, 2009. On December 15, 2009, Boeing conducted the 787-8’s maiden flight from Everett’s Paine Field, departing at 10:27 am PST and landing three hours later at 1:33 p.m. at Seattle's Boeing Field. During this test flight it reached a speed of  180 kn (333 km/h) and climbed to 13,200 ft (4,000 m). Originally scheduled for 5 and 1/2 hours, the test flight was shortened to three hours with the pilots wanting to complete the flight under visual meteorological conditions while visibility and cloud ceiling were low. The 6,800 hour, six-aircraft ground and flight test programme was scheduled in eight and a half months, the fastest certification campaign for a new Boeing commercial design.

The flight test program comprised six aircraft, ZA001 through ZA006, four with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engined aircraft and two with GE GEnx -1B64 engined aircraft. The second 787, ZA002 in All Nippon Airways livery flew to Boeing Field on December 22, 2009, to join the flight test program. The third 787, ZA004 made its first flight on February 24, 2010, followed by ZA003 on March 14, 2010. On March 24, 2010, flutter and ground effects testing was completed, clearing the aircraft to fly its entire flight envelope. On March 28, 2010, the 787 completed the ultimate wing load test, which required that the wings of a fully assembled aircraft be loaded to 150% of design limit load and held for 3 seconds. The wings were flexed approximately 25 ft (7.6 m) upward during the test. Unlike past aircraft, the wings were not tested to failure.

On October 05, 2012, Air India became the first carrier to take possession of a Dreamliner that was manufactured out of Boeing’s Charleston, South Carolina Boeing plant. This was the first Boeing Dreamliner that was manufactured outside of Washington state. Boeing would go onto using both the Everett and South Carolina plants to construct the Dreamliner.