The Boeing Dreamliner787 arrives in Japan October 2011
Julian Bray Aviation expert writes: It is depressing news. as I seem to recall during the flashy launch of the Boeing Dreamliner 787 way back in October 2011, I commented, the new aircraft was "almost a make or break diversion for Boeing as Airbus continues to encroach on all the American Boeing markets and is now taking parts of the US domestic market."
The 787 however delivers a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency. Most of the 787 is covered in carbon fibre, a high-tech thin plastic that is very strong but still lightweight. Military planes have used the material for years, but this is the first time so much has been used on an airliner in commercial service.
The Dreamliner features the largest entryways, overhead bins and windows of any airplane flying. Blake Emery, Boeing’s Director of Differentiation Strategy, said at the time these upgrades “improve harmony inside the cabin. The design puts equal emphasis on form and function." The marketing men concentrated on the in flight experience, and by all accounts this aircraft uses more electricity than in any other any aircraft types being offered on the international stage.
Also at the time of launch, it was given special fast track regulatory clearance for its multiplicity of innovative features and the superlight carbon fibre hull sections. This raised many an eyebrow at the time and angered competitors as they saw the situation as special pleading by Boeing. Sadly the 787s wings and the troublesome Lithium battery arrays are both made in Japan, and that is where the majority of the aircraft were initially operating, but now parked up.
The decision by the FAA to ground the whole aircraft type, could not have come at a worse time, many airlines are financially just holding on. Some 30 are expected to go in to administration this year, and the financial firms they lease the aircraft from, are also taking a very hard nosed line on future air leases and aircraft type approval.
As a former president of Italian airline Alitala, Umberto Nordio once explained to me: "You have to realise these are very valuable assets, we move on an hourly basis, all around the world." Clearly any adverse public relations or the slightest dip in passenger confidence will leave a lasting mark not only on the airlines concerned, but also on the financial institutions who actually own them, and air lease them out to the airlines to operate. The downside is that the airlease company, could well be left with dozens of Dreamliners, all neatly parked up and mothballed in Death Valley.
But as the marketing people enthused at the launch "The plane has a carbon fibre design making it more fuel efficient than traditional heavier planes. For the passengers, using the plane in-flight will be a much more intuitive experience, from storage-bin latches to the control of how much light seeps through the expanded windows. Other improvements include more pressurized cabin air, larger windows that can be electronically dimmed and hands-free toilets.
The wings on the 787 were made in Japan by Mitsubishi Heavy, the first time that a foreign contractor has built the most complex component of an aircraft for Boeing.They don't say who made the passenger emergency slides, these double as floating life rafts, but the world has seen their innovative design complete with location warning lights, plus hundreds of practical demonstrations as passengers have uploaded their personal rapid exit experience on YouTube for all to see - possibly for generations to come.
It cannot be too long before the Dreamliner is dubbed Nightmareliner 888, or when a brand becomes toxic, the name gets changed or vapourised ,MacDonald Douglas became MD almost overnight, after a series of tragic incidents.