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Boeing's 787 Dreamliner takes-off from Paine Field

  (Source: Boeing)
After a rocky gestation period, Boeing sets off with the 787

It's been a long time coming, but Boeing's 787 Dreamliner has finally made its first flight just days after its taxiing run. After two years of delays, the next generation airliner took to the air at 1:27 pm EST from Paine Field in Everett, Washington.

The flight is expected to last for more than five hours as the pilots test the flight characteristics of the plane and the engineers on the ground crunch the raw data that is streamed back to them. The 787 prototype will land at Boeing Field which is just south of downtown Seattle after the test flight.

This first flight kicks off a nine-month testing phase for the 787 which will conclude with the delivery of the first production aircraft to All Nippon Airways in Q4 2010 – a total of 840 orders have been placed from airlines across the globe.

The 787 prototype is just one of six aircraft that will be used during the nine-month testing period to gain FAA certification.

While Boeing is hoping that most its major hurdles with the 787 Dreamliner are behind it, there will be new competition in the coming years from the Airbus A350 XWB. Like the 787, the A350 XWB's fuselage and wings are made primarily of composites, however, materials like aluminum and titanium materials are also used in the airframe. And also like the 787, the A350 XWB has a cruising speed of Mach 0.85 and promises drastic cuts in fuel consumption.

Airbus has received over 500 orders for its A350 XWB and the aircraft is scheduled to enter service in 2013.

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RE: Pretty sad for Boeing
By stburke on 12/15/2009 3:37:24 PM , Rating: 5
I'll bite and thrown down a little lecture here.

First off, congrats to Boeing! It's always exciting to see new things in the air. I wouldn't call the 787 revolutionary in the way we travel, but more of big step in the evolution of a concept design that we've been using for decades. Certainly the manufacturing process is phenomenal and revolutionary given the complexity and the scale. But if you look at it the same design has been in place for decades. The real game changers were to be the Blended Wing Body (BWB), Concorde, and the Boeing Sonic Cruiser. Those aircraft would (did) revolutionize the way we perceive air travel.

Basically Airbus and Boeing have two almost radically different approaches to everything. Whether it be cockpit automation or air route evolution. Airbus took the side of the "Hub" network that we're all so familiar with. If you want to get from A to B, it requires a stopover in Hell, I mean Atlanta. That and the booming middle class in Asia is why Airbus developed the A380. Instead of 2 A330's/767's etc. on the route, a more efficient single plane could do all that lifting, all while freeing up slots at restricted hub airports (HND, LHR, etc.). Boeing initially took this position when the 747-X was introduced, and subsequently short lived. on the other hand Boeing saw a future in point-to-point service. Now instead of having to go through LAX or SFO to get to Tokyo, you could utilize smaller hubs like Denver, Salt Lake City, & Portland. The 787 is the midsize hub's dream. It has the legs to do all the long lucrative routes that airports and airlines want, all while being ~20% more efficient per pax carried.

Initially what Boeing proposed was the Sonic Cruiser. A plane similar in capacity to the 787, but could fly mach .98. Ultimately airlines favored efficiency of speed.

As far as the A350 goes, it was initially a re-engined A330, then a re-engined aluminum-lithium fuselage A330. Then finally, the larger composite A350XWB in development today. Supposedly it offers an 8% reduction in costs over the 787. Airbus (and everyone) saw what a blockbuster Boeing had on its hands and decided it wanted a cut. The re-engined and original A350 were very similar in capacity to the 787 models, so what market was there was already eaten up by Boeing. Airbus was smart and went larger and now they're positioning the A350 more like a 777-200/300 replacement. They're selling quite well now actually. Several airlines have order both the 787 and the A350, including just recently United.

For creature comforts, the 787 does sport a higher cabin pressure thanks to the strengthened fuselage. As well as a higher humidity since there's a smaller chance for erosion on the metal. The A350's cross section is wider than the 787's by about 5in which translates into almost .5in wider seats.

The A350 also doesn't use the full barrel fabrication that Boeing used for the 787 fuselage. There, I have no idea what the repercussions are for that but I can image more parasitic drag on the airframe, and maybe a simpler manufacturing process.

Either way they're both interesting aircraft and have certainly set a new precedent in manufacturing and efficiency. Thanks if you sat through all this!

RE: Pretty sad for Boeing
By DBRfreak on 12/16/2009 1:50:59 PM , Rating: 2
The A350 also doesn't use the full barrel fabrication that Boeing used for the 787 fuselage. There, I have no idea what the repercussions are for that but I can image more parasitic drag on the airframe, and maybe a simpler manufacturing process.

I'd say that if you use flush fasteners and generous amounts of sealing putty, you can eliminate a good bit of the drag issues. I would guess that most of the issues will come from added weight - maybe thicker edge bands to handle more fasteners and stronger primary structure (stringers, longerons, etc). The benefits should be simplified manufacturing and perhaps simplified maintenance.

I may be completely wrong, however.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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