The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner – a design which its makers say results in a more comfortable and economical flight, as it is the first aircraft to be built from carbon-fibre reinforced composite plastics instead of metal – makes its first commercial flight today.
The Dreamliner was originally conceived as the ‘Sonic Cruiser’ in 2001. Designers had planned that the craft would bring the first notable speed increase to the aviation industry since the discontinuation of Concorde.
However, financial woes in the industry and soaring fuel costs saw Boeing abandon its plans for more speed, choosing to focus instead on getting its passengers to destinations for less money, and in more comfort.
The craft uses lighter-weight composites for the fuselage and wings, new engines and the first all-electric system to help it fly with less fuel.
It is claimed that the Dreamliner offers a 20 per cent improvement in fuel efficiency.
Cabin builders also say that higher air pressure will make the flight more comfortable for passengers, as the interior will feel like 6000ft as opposed to the 8000ft that is felt on other airliners.
Designers also promise ambient lighting in the cabin, aimed at lulling passengers to sleep.
The 100 seats available to paying passengers on today’s flight sold out as soon as they went on sale, with a reported 25,505 people flooding the website for tickets.
The flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong comes after years of delays and technical glitches.
However, the head of Boeing’s 787 programme, Scott Francher, told reporters that the company now hopes to be building 10 Dreamliners per month by 2013.
“We are comfortable we have an executable plan,” Francher said ahead of today’s flight.
Last week, Bloomberg reported that a US agency had flagged four “safety-related concerns” with regard to the Dreamliner.
Standards for repairs, training and awareness, and limited information on the behaviour of aeroplane composite structures were all issues raised by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO).
Despite the concerns, the GAO said that they did not pose “extraordinary safety risks” and were not “insurmountable”.