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Boeing 787

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Boeing 787 Dreamliner
The prototype Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Role Wide-body jet airliner
National origin United States, with international partners
Manufacturer Boeing Commercial Airplanes
Status In development/early production
Unit cost 787-3: US$150.0–155.5 million[1][2]
787-8: US$161.0–171.5 million[1]
787-9: US$194.0–205.5 million[1]

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a mid-sized, wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner currently under development by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. It will carry between 210 and 330 passengers depending on variant and seating configuration. Boeing stated that it will be more fuel-efficient than earlier Boeing airliners and will be the first major airliner to use composite materials for most of its construction. Boeing's development of the 787 is also innovative and large scale collaborative management approach with suppliers.

On January 28, 2005, the aircraft's development designation 7E7 was changed to the 787. Early released concept images depicted a radical design with highly curved surfaces. On April 26, 2005, a year after the launch of the program, the final and a more conventional external 787 design was frozen.

Boeing featured its first 787 in a rollout ceremony on July 8, 2007, at its Everett assembly factory, by which time it had become the fastest-selling wide-body airliner in history with nearly 600 orders. A total of 861 Boeing 787s have been ordered by 56 customers as of April 2009. Originally scheduled to enter service in May 2008, production has been delayed multiple times and as of May 2009 was planned to enter into service in 2010. The aircraft's maiden flight originally planned for September 2007 has been delayed a number of times; as of July 2009, there is no confirmed schedule for its first flight.



In the late 1990s, Boeing began considering a replacement for the 767 when sales weakened due to the competing Airbus A330-200. As sales of the Boeing 747-400 also slowed, the company proposed two new aircraft, which were the Sonic Cruiser and the 747X. The Sonic Cruiser would have achieved higher speeds (approximately Mach 0.98) while burning fuel at the same rate as the existing 767 or A330. The 747X, competing with the Airbus A380, would have lengthened the 747-400 and improved efficiency by using a composite supercritical wing.

Market interest for the 747X was tepid, but the Sonic Cruiser had brighter prospects. Several major airlines in the United States, including Continental Airlines, initially showed enthusiasm for the Sonic Cruiser concept, although they also expressed concerns about the operating cost. However, by decreasing travel time they would be able to increase customer satisfaction and aircraft utilization.

The September 11, 2001 attacks upended the global airline market. Airlines could not justify large capital expenditures, and increased petroleum prices made them more interested in efficiency than speed. The worst-affected airlines, those in the United States, were considered the most likely customers of the Sonic Cruiser. Boeing offered airlines the option of using the airframe for either higher speed or increased efficiency, but the high projected airframe costs caused demand to slacken further. Then the company officially canceled the Sonic Cruiser on December 20, 2002 and switched tracks by announcing an alternative product, the 7E7, on January 29, 2003, naming the executives to run the new jetliner program.

Design phase

The replacement for the Sonic Cruiser project was dubbed the "7E7" (with a development code name of "Y2"). The "E" was said to stand for various things, depending upon the audience. To some, it stood for "efficiency", to others it stood for "environmentally friendly". In the end, Boeing claimed it merely stood for "Eight", after the aircraft was eventually rechristened "787". A public naming competition was also held, for which out of 500,000 votes cast online the winning title was Dreamliner.

On April 26, 2004, the Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) became the launch customer for the 787, then still known as the 7E7, by announcing a firm order for 50 aircraft to be delivered at the end of 2008. ANA's order included 30 787-3, 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 NaritaBeijing. The aircraft will allow ANA to open new routes to mid-sized cities not previously served, such as Denver, Montreal, and Boston.

Earlier proposed design configuration of the Boeing 7E7.
Earlier proposed design configuration of the Boeing 7E7.

Early concept images of the 787 included rakish cockpit windows, a dropped nose and a distinctive "shark-fin" vertical stabilizer. The final styling of the aircraft was more conservative, the fin appearing visually similar to those of aircraft currently in service. The nose and cockpit windows were also changed to a more conventional form.

The 787-3 and 787-8 were to be the initial variants, with the 787-9 entering service in 2010. Boeing initially priced the 787-8 variant at US$120 million, a low figure that surprised the industry. Boeing has since increased the price twice. As of 2007, the list price was $146–151.5 million for the 787-3, $157–167 million for the 787-8 and $189–200 million for the 787-9. Customer-announced orders and commitments for the 787 reached 237 aircraft during the first year of sales, with firm orders numbering 677 by the 787's premiere on July 8, 2007, and well before entry into service. This makes the 787 the fastest-selling wide-body airliner ever before entry into service.

The engine pods on the 787 feature chevron edges to reduce noise.
The engine pods on the 787 feature chevron edges to reduce noise.

The 787 uses the same technology proposed for the Sonic Cruiser in a more conventional configuration (see Features). Boeing claims the 787 will be near to 20% more fuel-efficient than the 767. One third of the efficiency gain will come from the engines, another third from aerodynamic improvements and the increased use of lighter weight composite materials, and the final third from advanced systems. The most notable contribution to efficiency is the new electrical architecture which replaces bleed air and hydraulic power with electrically powered compressors and pumps. Technology from the Sonic Cruiser and 787 will be used as part of Boeing's project to replace its entire airliner product line, an endeavor called the Yellowstone Project (of which the 787 is the first stage).

Boeing selected two engine types, the General Electric GEnx and Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, to power the 787, both placed in pods. Significantly, this leaves Pratt & Whitney, which normally has an entrant in the market, unable to offer one of its engines to 787 customers. According to United Technologies Corporation CEO George David, Pratt & Whitney "couldn't make the business case work for that engine." For the first time in commercial aviation, both engine types will have a standard interface with the aircraft, allowing any 787 to be fitted with either a GE or Rolls-Royce engine at any time. Engine interchangeability makes the 787 a more flexible asset to airlines, allowing them to change easily from one manufacturer's engine to the other's if required. The engine market for the 787 is estimated at US$40 billion over the next 25 years. The launch engine for all three current 787 variants is the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000. Airbus has offered the competing A350 powered by a development of the Rolls Royce Trent turbofan, the Trent XWB.

The 787 underwent extensive computer modeling and wind tunnel tests.
The 787 underwent extensive computer modeling and wind tunnel tests.

The launch of a new airliner can draw criticism from competitors. The 787 is no exception, as Airbus's John Leahy attempted to refute all of Boeing's claims. Leahy openly criticized the large-scale use of composites in the 787's fuselage as being "rushed and ridiculous". Despite this criticism, Boeing built and tested the first composite section while examining the Sonic Cruiser concept nearly five years before, making the 787 a significantly refined product.

The 787 underwent extensive wind tunnel testing at Boeing's Transonic Wind Tunnel, QinetiQ's five-meter wind tunnel at Farnborough, UK, and NASA Ames Research Center's wind tunnel, as well as at the French aerodynamics research agency, ONERA.


After stiff competition, Boeing announced on December 16, 2003, that the 787 would be assembled in Everett, Washington. Instead of building the complete aircraft from the ground up in the traditional manner, final assembly employs just 800 to 1,200 people to join completed sub-assemblies and integrate systems. This is a technique that Boeing has previously used on the 737 program, which involves shipping fuselage barrel sections by rail from Spirit AeroSystems' Wichita, Kansas, facility to Boeing's narrowbody final assembly plant in Renton, Washington. As the major components have many components pre-installed before delivery to Everett, final assembly time is reduced to only three days. This is less than a quarter of the time traditionally needed for Boeing's final assembly process. In order to speed delivery of the 787's major components, Boeing has modified three 747s purchased from Chinese and Taiwanese airlines. Called Dreamlifters, these widened airplanes can house the wings and fuselage of the 787 as well as other smaller parts.

Boeing's Everett Facility, selected as the site of 787 final assembly.
Boeing's Everett Facility, selected as the site of 787 final assembly.

Boeing manufactures the 787's tail fin at its plant in Frederickson, Washington, the ailerons and flaps at Boeing Australia, and fairings at Boeing Canada Technology. This was a new and daring step for Boeing, which during its entire history had guarded its techniques for designing and mass producing commercial jetliner wings. For economic reasons, the wings are manufactured by Japanese companies in Nagoya such as Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, which also makes the central wing box. The horizontal stabilizers are manufactured by Alenia Aeronautica in Italy; and the fuselage sections by Global Aeronautica and Vought in Charleston, South Carolina (USA), Kawasaki Heavy Industries in Japan and Spirit AeroSystems, in Wichita, Kansas (USA). The subcontractors are all designing with CATIA V5.

The passenger doors are made by Latécoère (France), and the cargo doors, access doors, and crew escape door are made by Saab (Sweden). Japanese industrial participation is very important to the project, with a 35% work share, and many of the subcontractors supported and funded by the Japanese government. On April 26, 2006, Japanese manufacturer Toray Industries and Boeing announced a production agreement involving $6 billion worth of carbon fiber. The deal is an extension of a contract signed in 2004 between the two companies and eases some concerns that Boeing might have difficulty maintaining its production goals for the 787. On February 6, 2008, TAL Manufacturing Solutions Limited, a subsidiary of the Tata Group (India) announced a deal to deliver floor beams for the 787 from their factory at Mihan, near Nagpur, India to assembly plants in Italy, Japan and the United States.

Messier-Dowty (France) builds the landing gear, which includes titanium forged in Russia, and brake parts from Italy, and Thales supplies the integrated standby flight display and electrical power conversion system. Honeywell and Rockwell-Collins provide flight control, guidance, and other avionics systems, including standard dual head up guidance systems. Future integration of forward-looking infrared is being considered by Flight Dynamics allowing improved visibility using thermal sensing as part of the HUD system, allowing pilots to "see" through the clouds. Connecticut (USA)-based Hamilton Sundstrand provides power distribution and management systems for the aircraft, including manufacture and production of Generator Control Units (GCUs) as well as integration of power transfer systems that can move power from the Auxiliary Power Unit (APU) and the main engines to the necessary parts and machinery of the aircraft. Cold weather test of the APU took place in Alaska.

The first composite fuselage section rolled out in January 2005, and final external design was set in April 2005. On June 30, 2006, Boeing celebrated the start of major assembly of the first 787 at Fuji Heavy Industries' new factory in Handa, Japan, near Nagoya. On December 6, 2006, Boeing conducted a "virtual rollout" of the 787 in which a simulation of the 787's manufacturing process was shown publicly. Performed using the project's Catia design tool, the simulation was intended to discover production issues prior to assembly of the first airframe, when they are cheaper to fix.

Assembly of Section 41 of a 787 Dreamliner.
Assembly of Section 41 of a 787 Dreamliner.

On January 12, 2007, first major assemblies, forward fuselage, center wing, and center wheel well built by FHI and KHI were shipped on Dreamlifters from Nagoya, Japan. They were delivered to Global Aeronautica in Charleston, South Carolina, on January 15. On March 14, 2007, the first production vertical tail fin was rolled out at Boeing's Composite Manufacturing Center in Frederickson, Washington. On April 16, the first production all-composite nose-and-cockpit section (Section 41) was rolled out at Spirit Aerosystem's plant in Wichita, Kansas. Comprising the cockpit area, nose landing gear well, and the forward-most section of the passenger area, this oval-shaped section is 21 feet (6.4 m) in height, 19 feet (5.74 m) in width and 42 feet (12.8 m) in length. A Dreamlifter delivered the first horizontal stabilizer manufactured by Alenia Aeronautica at its facility in Grottaglie, Italy to Everett on April 24. On May 8, 2007, Vought rolled out completed rear Sections 47 and 48 from its factory in Charleston, SC. The sections were flown via the Dreamlifter to Everett, arriving on May 11 along with the all-composite forward section (section 41) manufactured by Spirit AeroSystems.

Three 747 Dreamlifters are used to transport 787 fuselage sections.
Three 747 Dreamlifters are used to transport 787 fuselage sections.

The Dreamlifter was also used to ship the first 787 carbon-fiber wings from Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd.'s factory in Nagoya to Everett on May 15, 2007. The final major assembly, the integrated midbody fuselage, followed the next day, allowing 787 final assembly to began on May 21. Rolls-Royce shipped the first pair of Trent 1000 engines from their Derby, UK facilities on schedule on June 7, and on June 26, 2007 LN1/ZA001 had finished major assembly and was towed to the paint hangar in the early morning.

An important milestone in the launch of the 787 was the on-time certification of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine on August 7, 2007 by European and US regulators. The alternative GE GEnx-1B engine achieved certification on March 31, 2008. On August 20, 2007, Hamilton Sundstrand stated that it had delivered its first two cabin air conditioning packs to Boeing for the initial flight-test of the 787 Dreamliner. On June 20, 2008, the 787 team achieved "Power On" of the first aircraft, powering and testing the aircraft's electrical supply and distribution systems.

In addition to the flight test aircraft, Boeing has also constructed a non-flight 787 airframe which has been built without engines or horizontal stabilizers and will be used for static testing. The composite wing may not be broken during the tests, as this would require an expensive cleanup afterwards. On September 27, 2008, over a period of nearly two hours, the fuselage was successfully tested at 14.9 psi (102.7 kPa), this being 150 percent of the maximum pressure expected in commercial service (i.e., when the plane is at maximum cruising altitude). In December 2008 FAA passed the maintenance programme for the 787 [2].

On May 3, 2009, the first test 787 was moved to the flight line following extensive factory testing. The tests included landing gear swings, systems integration verification, and a total run through of the first flight. Before first flight, the test aircraft must be put through additional power and systems tests, including engine run-ups. Following these and high-speed taxi tests, the maiden flight will occur. Boeing has spent most of May 2009 conducting tests on the first 787 prototype in preparation for the first flight. The aircraft's engines were started for the first time on May 21, 2009.

Although the flight test schedule has not been announced, the original program called for a 9-month flight test campaign. In September 2007, after announcing delays, Mike Bair said that Boeing would keep the Certification Date using six flight-test 787s at a rate of 120 FT hours per month, higher than the 70-80 FT hours per month used in previous planes. Boeing's previous major aircraft, the 777, took 11 months with nine aircraft flying 7000 FT Hours, partly to demonstrate 180-min ETOPS, one of its main features.

Development problems and delays

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner's first public appearance was webcast live on July 8, 2007.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner's first public appearance was webcast live on July 8, 2007.

Boeing decided to change its basic assembly approach beginning with the 787. Rather than receive individual parts and assemble them in Everett, Washington, Boeing assigned its subcontractors to do more assembly themselves and deliver completed subsystems to Boeing. Boeing would then perform final assembly. While the major benefits of this approach are a leaner and simpler assembly line and lower inventory, its success depends on the degree to which suppliers can perform the extra work. Some subcontractors have had difficulty completing the extra work, because they could not procure the needed parts, perform the subassembly on schedule, or both. The remaining assembly work is left for Boeing to complete and is referred to as "traveled work".

Boeing premiered the first 787 at a rollout ceremony on July 8, 2007, which matches the aircraft's designation in the US-style month-day-year format (7/08/07). However, some of the aircraft's major systems had not been installed at that time, and many parts were attached with temporary non-aerospace fasteners requiring their later replacement with flight fasteners. Boeing had originally planned for a first flight by the end of September 2007, but on September 5 announced a three-month delay, blaming a shortage of fasteners as well as incomplete software.

On October 10, 2007, a second three-month delay to the first flight and a six-month delay to first deliveries was announced. Boeing cited problems with its foreign and domestic supply chain for the delay, especially the ongoing fastener shortage, the lack of documentation from overseas suppliers, and continuing delays with the flight guidance software. Less than a week later, the 787 program manager was replaced, although the delivery delays were not cited as a reason for the change.

On January 16, 2008, Boeing announced a third three-month delay to the first flight of the 787, with deliveries to launch customer All Nippon Airways postponed until early 2009. The company said that insufficient progress had been made on the factory floor to complete work that was originally planned to be carried out by suppliers.

On March 28, 2008, Boeing announced that it plans to buy Vought Aircraft Industries' interest in Global Aeronautica, owner of the South Carolina plant that manufacturers major portions of the 787's fuselage. The purchase will make the assembly plant a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Italy’s Alenia Aeronautica.

The first 787 Dreamliner at Boeing's Everett plant.
The first 787 Dreamliner at Boeing's Everett plant.

On April 9, 2008, Boeing officially announced a fourth delay, shifting the maiden flight to the fourth quarter of 2008, and delaying initial deliveries by around 15 months to the third quarter of 2009. The 787-9 variant was postponed to 2012 and the 787-3 variant will follow but has no firm delivery date. The new schedule included extra time in the testing phase to accommodate unforeseen delays. While the April 2008 announcement did not directly address delivery schedules, the production rates had previously been planned to increase to 10 per month by 2010, and possibly as high as 16 per month thereafter. Information subsequent to the announcement indicated that the production ramp-up would also be slower than previously expected, with only 25 aircraft delivered by the end of 2009 compared to the 120 originally planned. Later deliveries were expected to be delayed by up to 30 months.

The program was further delayed by a Boeing machinists strike during September and October 2008. On November 4, 2008, the company announced another delay, this time caused by the incorrect installation of some of the structurally important fasteners, stating that the first test flight would not be accomplished in the fourth quarter of 2008. Boeing continued to emphasize that the new delay could be attributed directly to the strike. After assessing the 787 program schedule with its suppliers, Boeing confirmed on 11 December 2008 that the first flight would be delayed until the second quarter of 2009.

On May 4, 2009, a press report indicated that customers will face additional delivery delays of up to six months, because Boeing is not expected to reach its target production rate of 10 aircraft per month until mid-2013. The first 787 to enter commercial service is due to be delivered to All Nippon Airways in February 2010.

On June 15, 2009, during the Paris Air Show, Boeing said that the Boeing 787 would make its first flight within two weeks. However, on June 23, 2009, Boeing issued a press release stating that the first flight is postponed "due to a need to reinforce an area within the side-of-body section of the aircraft". Boeing confirmed that no new dates for the first flight or deliveries will be forthcoming for several weeks.



The 787 features lighter-weight construction. Its materials (by weight) are: 50% composite, 20% aluminum, 15% titanium, 10% steel, 5% other. Composite materials are significantly lighter and stronger than traditional aircraft materials, making the 787 a very light aircraft for its capabilities. The 787 will be 80% composite by volume. Each 787 contains approximately 35 tons of carbon fiber reinforced plastic, made with 23 tons of carbon fiber. Composites are used on fuselage, wings, tail, doors, and interior. Aluminum is used on wing and tail leading edges, titanium used mainly on engines with steel used in various places.

The longest-range 787 variant can fly 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles (14,800 to 15,700 km), enough to cover the Los Angeles to Bangkok or New York City to Taipei routes. It will have a cruise speed of Mach 0.85 (561 mph, 903 km/h at typical cruise altitudes).

Dreamliner cabin cross-section mockup.
Dreamliner cabin cross-section mockup.

The 787 will seat 240 in two-class domestic configuration, with a 46-in (116.8 cm) pitch for first class and a 34-in (86.4 cm) pitch for coach class. 296 passengers can be seated in a high-density 3+2+3 / 2+4+2 coach arrangement with 36-in (91.4 cm) Business and 32-in (81.3 cm) Coach pitch. Up to 234 passengers may be seated in a three-class setup that uses 61-in (154.9 cm) pitch in First Class (2+2+2 or 1+2+1), 39-in (99 cm) pitch for Business (2+3+2 or 2+2+2) and 32-in (81.3 cm) for Coach (2+4+2). Cabin interior width is approximately 18 feet (547 cm) at armrest, and was increased by 1 inch (2.5 cm) over what was originally planned. The 787's interior cabin width is 15 in (38 cm) greater than that of the Airbus A330 and A340, but 5 in (13 cm) narrower than the A350-800 XWB. For economy class in 3+2+3 or 2+4+2 arrangements, seat-bottom widths will be 18.5 in (47 cm), comparable to that found on the Boeing 777, and recommended by detailed passenger ergonomics studies. For 3+3+3 and 2+5+2 maximum passenger density layout, the seat widths would be approximately 17.2 in (43.7 cm), approximately the same as those found on the Boeing 737. The vast majority of airlines are expected to select the 3+3+3 configuration on the 787. (See wide-body aircraft for a comparison of cabin widths and seating).

Composite photo showing three options for Dreamliner cabin LED lighting.
Composite photo showing three options for Dreamliner cabin LED lighting.

The cabin windows are larger than all other in-service civil air transports (27 cm by 47 cm), with a higher eye level, so passengers can maintain a view of the horizon. Electrochromism-based "auto-dimming" (smart glass) reduces cabin glare while maintaining transparency. These are to be supplied by PPG. Light-emitting diode (LED) cabin lighting (three color) will be used instead of fluorescent tubes, allowing the aircraft to be entirely 'bulbless' and have 128 color combinations.

A version of EthernetAvionics Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet (AFDX) / ARINC 664—will be used to transmit data between the flight deck and aircraft systems. The flight deck features LCD multi-function displays, all of which will use an industry standard GUI widget toolkit (Cockpit Display System Interfaces to User Systems / ARINC 661). The Lockheed Martin Orion spacecraft will use a glass cockpit derived from Rockwell Collins' 787 flight deck. Like other Boeing airliners, the 787 will use a yoke instead of a side-stick.

The internal pressure will be increased to the equivalent of 6000 feet (1800 m) altitude instead of the 8000 feet (2400 m) on conventional aircraft. According to Boeing, in a joint study with Oklahoma State University, this will significantly improve passenger comfort. Higher humidity in the passenger cabin is possible because of the use of composites (which do not corrode). Cabin air is provided by electrically driven compressors using no engine bleed air. An advanced cabin air-conditioning system provides better air quality: Ozone is removed from outside air; HEPA filters remove bacteria, viruses and fungi; and a gaseous filtration system removes odors, irritants and gaseous contaminants.

Bleedless turbofans imply the elimination of superheated air conduits normally used for de-icing, aircraft power, and other functions. These systems are to be replaced by an all-electrical system. Another new system is a wing ice protection system provided by Ultra Electronics Controls Division of the UK that uses electro-thermal heater mats attached to the aircraft slats, special electrical harnesses for transferring the electrical power to the heater mats as well as system control and power switching technology.

An active gust alleviation system, similar to the system that Boeing built for the B-2 bomber, improves ride quality during turbulence. Boeing, as part of its "Quiet Technology Demonstrator 2" project, is experimenting with several engine noise-reducing technologies for the 787. Among these are a redesigned air inlet containing sound-absorbing materials and redesigned exhaust duct covers whose rims are tipped in a toothed pattern to allow for quieter mixing of exhaust and outside air. Boeing expects these developments to make the 787 significantly quieter both inside and out.

Boeing engineers designed the 787 interior to better accommodate persons with mobility, sensory, and cognitive disabilities. For example, a 56-inch by 57-inch convertible lavatory includes a movable center wall that allows two separate lavatories to become one large, wheelchair-accessible facility.

Technical concerns

Engine interchangeability

The two types of engines compatible with the 787 will use a standard electrical interface, potentially allowing an aircraft to be fitted with Rolls-Royce or GE engines at any time. This flexibility will allow an airline to switch from one engine manufacturer to another in order to take advantage of technological developments or to facilitate maintenance. Boeing's goal is to make changing engine types as simple as a standard same-manufacturer replacement.

However, ILFC's Vice President of Marketing, Marty Olson stated that swapping engines produced by different manufacturers could take as long as 15 days - thus making the idea of multi-manufacturer engine changes economically infeasible. "You’d have to take all the pylon, everything from the wing down, off," Olson said. He went on to complain that Boeing is still promoting the 24-hour change in spite of promises to alter their marketing. Current aircraft can have engines changed to those of a different manufacturer but this rarely happens due to the costs involved. Boeing's response is that the design is not yet finalized and 24 hours remains their goal.

Composite fuselage

Disassembled fuselage section of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Disassembled fuselage section of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

The 787's all-composite fuselage makes it the first composite airliner in production. While the Boeing 777 contains 50% aluminum and 12% composites, the numbers for the new airplane are 15% aluminum, 50% composite (mostly carbon fiber reinforced plastic) and 12% titanium. Each fuselage barrel will be manufactured in one piece, and the barrel sections joined end to end to form the fuselage. This will eliminate the need for about 50,000 fasteners used in conventional airplane building. According to the manufacturer the composite is also stronger, allowing a higher cabin pressure during flight compared to aluminum. It was suggested by many, such as former Boeing senior engineer Vince Weldon, that the risks of having a composite fuselage have not been fully assessed and should not be attempted. It was also added that carbon fiber, unlike metal, does not visibly show cracks and fatigue. Boeing has dismissed such notions, insisting that composites have been used on wings and other passenger aircraft parts for many years and they have not been an issue. They have also stated that special defect detection procedures will be put in place to detect any potential hidden damage.

Another concern arises from the risk of lightning strikes. The 787 fuselage's composite could have as much as 1,000 times the electrical resistance of aluminum, increasing the risk of damage during a lightning strike. Boeing has stated that the 787's lightning protection will meet FAA requirements. FAA management is planning to relax some lightning strike requirements, which will help the 787.

In 2006, Boeing launched the 787 GoldCare program. This is an optional, comprehensive life-cycle management service whereby aircraft in the program are routinely monitored and repaired as needed. This is the first program of its kind from Boeing: Post-sale protection programs are not new, but have usually been offered by third party service centers. Boeing is also designing and testing composite hardware so inspections are mainly visual. This will reduce the need for ultrasonic and other non-visual inspection methods, saving time and money.

According to Boeing Vice President Jeff Hawk, who heads the effort to certify the 787 for airline service, a crash test involving a vertical drop of a partial fuselage section from about 15 feet onto a one inch-thick steel plate went ahead as planned August 23, 2007 in Mesa, Arizona. Boeing spokeperson Lori Gunter stated on September 6, 2007 that results matched what Boeing's engineers had predicted. As a result the company can model various crash scenarios using computational analysis rather than performing more tests on actual pieces of the plane. However, it has also been suggested by a fired Boeing engineer that in the event of a crash landing, survivable in a metal plane, the composite fuselage could shatter and burn with toxic fumes.

Weight issues

Boeing had been working to trim excess weight since assembly of the first airframe began in 2006. This is typical for new aircraft during their development phase. The first six 787s, which are to be used as part of the test program, will be overweight according to Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Scotdet Carson. After the flight test program, these aircraft will be delivered to airline customers All Nippon Airways, Northwest Airlines and Royal Air Maroc at speculated deeper than usual discounts. The first 787 is expected to be 5,000 lb (2,270 kg) overweight. The seventh and subsequent aircraft will be the first optimized 787s and are expected to meet all goals. Boeing has redesigned some parts and made more use of titanium. According to ILFC's Steven Udvar-Hazy, the 787-9's operating empty weight is around 14,000 lb (6,350 kg) overweight, which also could be a problem for the proposed 787-10.

In early 2009 a number of 787 customers started to publicly mention their dissatisfaction with the reduced specifications on the 787, specifically weight/range issues. Industry insiders have stated Boeing has reduced its range estimates for the 787-8 from 14,800-15,700 km to 14,150-15,170 km, a reduction of over 500 km. There have also been reports that this led Delta to delay deliveries of 787s it inherited from Northwest in order to take later planes which may be closer to the original estimates. Other airlines are suspected to have been given discounts to take the earlier models. Shanghai Airlines stated in March 2009 it wished to either delay or cancel its first order. Boeing expects to have the weight issues addressed by the 21st production model.

In May 2009, a press report indicated that a 10%-15% range reduction for early 787-8 aircraft is anticipated due to these planes being about 8% overweight. This means a range of about 6,900 nmi (12,800 km) instead the originally promised 7,700 to 8,200 nmi (14,800-15,700 km). Substantial redesign work is expected to correct this, which will complicate increases in production rates. Boeing confirmed on May 7 that early 787s would be heavy and is working on weight reductions. The company stated the early 787-8s will have a range of almost 8,000 nmi (14,800 km).

Computer network vulnerability

787 flight deck
787 flight deck

In January 2008, previous Federal Aviation Administration concerns came to light regarding protection of the 787's networks from possible intentional or unintentional passenger access. The computer network in the passenger compartment, designed to give passengers in-flight internet access, is connected to the airplane's control, navigation and communication systems.

Boeing says various hardware and software solutions are employed to protect the airplane systems including air gaps for the physical separation of the networks, and firewalls for their software separation. Measures are provided so data cannot be transferred from the passenger internet system to the maintenance or navigation systems. As part of certification Boeing plans to demonstrate to the FAA that these provisions are acceptable.


There are three variants of the 787 and all were first offered for sale in 2004. The 787-8 is to enter service in 2010. The 787-9 will enter service next in 2013. The last to enter service will be the 787-3.


The Boeing 787-8, the first model of the aircraft to see production.
The Boeing 787-8, the first model of the aircraft to see production.

The 787-8 is the base model of the 787 family with a length of 186 feet (57 m) and a wingspan of 197 feet (60 m) and a range of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles (14,200 to 15,200 km) depending on seating configuration. The 787-8 seats 210 passengers in a three class configuration. The variant will be the first of the 787 line to enter service in 2010. Boeing is targeting the 787-8 to replace the 767-200ER and 767-300ER, as well as expand into new non-stop markets where larger planes would not be economically viable.


This will be a 290-seat (two-class) short-range version of the 787 targeted at high-density flights, with a range of 2,500 to 3,050 nautical miles (4,650 to 5,650 km) when fully loaded. It is designed to replace the Airbus A300/Airbus A310 and Boeing 757-300/Boeing 767-200 on regional routes from airports with restricted gate spacing. It will use the same fuselage as the 787-8, though with some areas of the fuselage strengthened for higher cycles. The wing will be derived from the 787-8, with blended winglets replacing raked wingtips. The change decreased the wingspan by roughly 25 feet, allowing the 787-3 to fit into more domestic gates, particularly in Japan.

This model will be limited in its range by a low Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 364,000 lb (163,290 kg) though it will have the same fuel tank capacity as the 787-8. (Actual range is calculated by the remaining available weight capacity for the fuel after the aircraft weight and payload are subtracted from the MTOW). A full load of passengers and cargo would limit the amount of fuel it could take on board, as with the 747-400D. This would only be viable on shorter, high-density routes, such as Tokyo to Shanghai, Osaka to Seoul, or London to Berlin. Many airports charge landing fees depending on the weight of the aircraft; thus, an airliner rated at a lower MTOW, though otherwise identical to its sibling, would pay lower fees.

An artist's impression of a Boeing 787-3, which has winglets and a shorter span
An artist's impression of a Boeing 787-3, which has winglets and a shorter span

Boeing has projected that the future of aviation between very large (but close) cities of five million or more may stabilize around the capacity level of the 787-3. Regions such as India and East Asia, where large population centers are in close proximity, offer many examples. Approximately 3.1 billion people live within the range of the 787-3 if used in India or China. Boeing has also claimed that the 787-3's efficiency could offset the higher landing fees and acquisition costs (compared to a single-aisle plane) and make it useful on such routes.

Boeing also believes legacy carriers could use this variant to compete with low-cost airlines by running twice the capacity of a single-aisle craft for less than twice its operating cost (fuel, landing fees, maintenance, number of flight crew, airspace fees, parking fees, gate fees, etc.).

Beyond Asia, a range of 3,050 nm (5,600 km), or flight time of roughly six hours is sufficient to connect many major cities. The gate spacing constraint that the 787-3 is intended to overcome is really only a problem in Japan. In Europe, the -3 will still be too wide for most short-haul gates and in the Middle East, India and China new airports are being built with wider gate spacing. Boeing had not planned to certify the 787-3 in Europe due to lack of interest in the model from potential European customers.

Forty-three 787-3s were ordered by the two Japanese airlines that operate the Boeing 747-400D, but production problems on the base 787-8 model led Boeing to postpone the introduction of the 787-3 in April 2008, now following the 787-9 but without a firm delivery date. Japan Airlines cancelled all of its 787-3 orders, and All Nippon Airways reduced its order to 28 in May 2009 (cancelled two from its original 30). All of these cancelled 787-3 orders were transferred to 787-8 orders.


The 787-9 will be the first variant of the 787 with a "stretched" (lengthened) fuselage, seating 250-290 in three classes with a range of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles (14,800 to 15,750 km). This variant differs from the 787-8 in several ways, including structural strengthening, a lengthened fuselage, a higher fuel capacity, a higher maximum take-off weight (MTOW) and a slightly wider wingspan compared to the 787-8. Each wingtip has been further extended by three feet (1 m). As of December 2008, the targeted entry into service (EIS), originally planned for 2010, is scheduled for early 2013. Boeing is targeting the 787-9 to compete with both passenger variants of the Airbus A330 and to replace their own 767-400ER. Like the 787-8, it will also open up new non-stop routes, flying more cargo and fewer passengers more efficiently than the 777-200ER or A340-300/500.

When first launched, the 787-9 had the same fuel capacity as the other two variants. The design differences meant higher weight and resulted in a slightly shorter range than the 787-8. After further consultation with airlines, design changes were incorporated to add a forward tank to increase its fuel capacity. It will now have a longer range and a higher MTOW than the other two variants. The -9 will be able to fly non-stop from New York to Manila or from Moscow to São Paulo and will have the lowest seat-mile cost of the three 787 variants.

Air New Zealand is the launch customer for the 787-9 and the second customer ever for the Boeing 787 behind ANA. Qantas, American Airlines, Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Continental Airlines have placed the largest orders for the 787-9, although Qantas recently announced they would reduce their order from 65 to 50 as a result of struggling financial times from the aviation downturn.

Future variants


Boeing has stated that it is likely to develop another version, the longer 787-10, with seating capacity between 290 and 310. This proposed model is intended to compete with the planned Airbus A350-900. The 787-10 would supersede the 777-200ER in Boeing's current catalog and could also compete against the Airbus A330-300 and A340-300. Boeing was meeting with potential customers to set 787-10 characteristics in 2007. This variant has not yet been officially launched by Boeing, but Mike Bair, at that time head of the 787 Program, stated that "It's not a matter of if, but when we are going to do it... The 787-10 will be a stretched version of the 787-9 and sacrifice some range to add extra seat and cargo capacity."

Other possible variants

Although no date has been set, Boeing expects to build a freighter version, possibly in 10 to 15 years.

Boeing is reported to be considering a 787 variant as a candidate to replace the 747-based VC-25 as Air Force One.

Orders and deliveries

Cumulative orders for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, 2004 to September 2008.
Cumulative orders for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, 2004 to September 2008.

The Boeing 787 has not yet entered service. The first 787 is scheduled to enter passenger service in Q1 2010 with All Nippon Airways. ILFC is its largest customer ordering a total of 74 Boeing 787s, which included 67 787-8s and 7 787-9s.

Boeing 787 total firm orders
787-3 787-8 787-9 TBD Total firm orders
28 627 196 851
  • Data through May 2009. Updated on 27 June 2009.


Model 787-3 787-8 787-9
Flight deck crew Two
Passengers 290–330 210–250 250–290
Length 186 ft (56.7 m) 206 ft (62.8 m)
Wingspan 170 ft (51.8 m) 197 ft (60.0 m) 208 ft (63.4 m)
Wing sweep 32.2°
Height 55 ft 6 in (16.92 m)
Fuselage height 19 ft 5 in (5.91 m)
Fuselage width 18 ft 11 in (5.75 m)
Cabin width 18 ft (5.49 m)
Cargo capacity 4,400 ft³ (124.6 m³) 28 LD3 5,400 ft³ (152.9 m³) 36 LD3
Empty weight 223,000 lb (101,000 kg) 242,000 lb (110,000 kg) 254,000 lb (115,000 kg)
Maximum takeoff weight 364,000 lb (165,000 kg) 484,000 lb (220,000 kg) 540,000 lb (245,000 kg)
Cruise speed Mach 0.85 (903 km/h, 561 mph, 487 knots, at 40,000 ft/12,200 m)
Maximum cruise speed Mach 0.89 (945 km/h, 587 mph, 510 knots, at 40,000 ft/12,200 m)
Range 2,500 – 3,050 NM
(4,650 – 5,650 km)
7,650 – 8,200 NM
(14,200 – 15,200 km)
8,000 – 8,500 NM
(14,800 – 15,750 km)
Maximum fuel capacity 11,086 US gal (41,965 L) 33,528 US gal (126,917 L) 36,693 US gal (138,898 L)
Service ceiling 43,000 ft (13,106.4 m)
Engines (2×) General Electric GEnx or Rolls-Royce Trent 1000
Maximum thrust capability (2×) 53,000 lbf (235.8 kN) 64,000 lbf (284.7 kN) 70,000 lbf (311.4 kN)

Sources: 787 brochure, 787-8 Airport report, 787-3 fact sheet, 787-8 fact sheet, 787-9 fact sheet

See also

Related development

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

External links

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Published in July 2009.

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