Boeing 787

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File:NW Boeing 787.jpg
Rendering of a Boeing 787-8 in Northwest Airlines colors (final design)

The Boeing 787, or Dreamliner, is a mid-sized wide body passenger airliner currently under development by Boeing Commercial Airplanes and scheduled to enter service in 2008. It will carry between 200 and 350 passengers depending on the seating configuration, and will be more fuel-efficient than comparable earlier airliners. In addition, it will be the first major airliner to use composite material in the majority of its construction.

Prior to January 28, 2005, the 787 was known as the developmental designator 7E7. On April 26, 2005, one year to the day after the launch of the program, the final look of the external 787 design was frozen [1]. With a less rakish nose and a more conventional tail, the final design has superior aerodynamics.


When 767 sales began to weaken in the face of competition from the Airbus A330-200 in the late 1990s, Boeing began to consider replacement aircraft. As the 747-400 was also beginning to lose traction, the company proposed two new aircraft — the Boeing Sonic Cruiser and the 747X.

File:Boeing sonic.jpg
Originally the Sonic Cruiser was Boeing's intended choice to replace the 767. Boeing later reverted to the more conservative, though still advanced, 787

The Sonic Cruiser was intended to achieve higher speeds (approximately Mach 0.98) while burning fuel at the same rate as the existing 767 and A330 products. The 747X, intended to compete with the Airbus A380, would stretch the 747-400 and give it a composite supercritical wing to improve efficiency. The limited potential market for superjumbos was an issue, however; the earlier Douglas DC-10 and Lockheed L-1011 widebodies split of a similarly limited market drove both companies out of their strong positions in the commercial aircraft market.

Market interest for the 747X was tepid; the Sonic Cruiser had brighter prospects. Several major airlines, primarily in the United States, voiced their optimism for the concept. By decreasing travel time, they would be able to increase customer satisfaction and aircraft utilization.

When the September 11, 2001 attacks occurred, the global airline market was upended. Airlines were not able to justify large capital expenditures, and due to increased petroleum prices, were more interested in efficiency than speed. The worst-affected airlines were in the United States — those same airlines were considered to be the most likely customer of the Sonic Cruiser. Boeing proceeded to offer airlines the option of using the airframe for either higher speed or increased efficiency. Due to high projected airframe costs, demand continued to evaporate. Eventually, Boeing switched tracks and decided to offer an alternative project, cancelling the 747X once Airbus launched production of the Airbus A380 aircraft.

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," etc. In the end, Boeing claimed it merely stood for "Eight," after the aircraft was eventually rechristened "787" when several Chinese airlines ordered the product, as eight is a lucky number in Chinese numerology. [2]

The 787 essentially uses the technology proposed for the Sonic Cruiser in a more conventional airframe configuration (see Features). Boeing claims that the 787 will be up to 20% more fuel-efficient than current comparable aircraft. Roughly one-third of this efficiency improvement will come from the engines; another third from aerodynamic improvements and the increased use of lighter weight composite materials; and the rest from advanced systems. The most notable system advancement contributing to efficiency is a "more electric 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 their entire airliner product line, Yellowstone (of which the 787 is the first stage.).

On December 16, 2003, Boeing announced assembly would take place in Everett, Washington, employing 800 to 1,200 people.

On April 6, 2004, Boeing announced that it had selected two engine types, the General Electric (GE) GEnx and Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 to power the 787. Significantly, this leaves Pratt & Whitney unable to offer one of their own engines to 787 customers. Boeing may have wished to rely on two evolved versions of existing engines rather than the higher-risk option of an all new Pratt & Whitney engine, particularly in light of Pratt & Whitney's recent failures in the Regional Jet market and failed PW6000 engine for the A318.

File:Boeing 7E7 New.JPG
The original 787 styling, which has since been abandoned

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 far more flexible asset to airlines, allowing them to change from one manufacturer's engine to the other's in light of any future engine developments which conform more closely to their operating profile. The engine market for the 787 is estimated $40 billion USD over the next 25 years.

The launch of a new airliner can be expected to draw scathing comments from competitors, Boeing's doubt over the A380 and Airbus' mocking of the Sonic Cruiser being recent examples. The 787 is no exception, as Airbus' John Leahy has made attempts at refuting all of Boeing's claims, openly criticizing the large-scale use of composites in the 787's fuselage as being "rushed and ridiculous". Boeing's response is that the technology has already been well-proven on military aircraft. Airbus recently offered the competing A350 using derivatives of the turbofans developed for the 787, modified to generate bleed air. This new jet will make less widespread use of composites with Airbus preferring aluminium-lithium alloys for the fuselage [3]. As of October 132005 the A350 had 143 commitments from various airline companies.

Speculation has surfaced that to compete with the Airbus A350, and especially to compete for the large order from Emirates and an order from British Airways, Boeing is studying a "787-10", a double-stretch of the 787-8. This has been reported in numerous articles, including on ATW Online's daily news [4].

Commercial launch

On April 26, 2004, the Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) became the launch customer for the 787, then still-known as the 7E7, announcing a firm order for 50 aircraft to be delivered beginning in 2008. ANA's order was for thirty 787-3, 300 seat, one-class domestic aircraft, and twenty 787-8, long-haul, 230 seat, two-class aircraft for international routes such as Tokyo Narita-Los Angeles. The aircraft will allow new routes to be opened to minor cities not previously served, such as to Denver.

Later orders and options are as follows.

Orders and options

Date Airline EIS Type Engine
787-3 787-8 787-9 Unknown Options
April 26 2004 File:Japan flag large.png All Nippon Airways 2008 30 20     50 Trent 1000
June 2 2004 File:Flag of New Zealand.png Air New Zealand 2008   2     16 Trent 1000
July 7 2004 File:Uk flag large.png First Choice Airways 2009   6     6 GEnx
July 7 2004 File:Flag of Italy.png Blue Panorama 2009   4     2  
October 21 2004 File:Us flag large.png Primaris Airlines 2008   20     15  
December 22 2004 File:Japan flag large.png Japan Airlines 2008 13 17     20
December 29 2004 File:Us flag large.png Continental Airlines 2009   10       GEnx
December 31 2004 File:Vietnam flag large.png Vietnam Airlines 2010   4     11  
January 28, 2005 File:China flag large.png Air China 2008   15        
January 28, 2005 File:China flag large.png China Eastern 2008       15    
January 28, 2005 File:China flag large.png China Southern 2008   10        
January 28, 2005 File:China flag large.png Hainan Airlines 2008       8    
January 28, 2005 File:China flag large.png Shanghai Airlines 2008   9        
January 28, 2005 File:China flag large.png Xiamen Airlines 2008       3    
February 4, 2005 File:Ethiopia flag large.png Ethiopian Airlines 2008   5     5  
February 25, 2005 File:Iceland flag large.png Icelandair 2010   2     5  
April 11, 2005 File:South korea flag large.png Korean Air 2010   10     10  
April 25, 2005 File:Canada flag large.png Air Canada[5] 2010       14 46 GEnx
April 26, 2005 File:India flag large.png Air India ?   20     7 GEnx
May 5, 2005 File:Us flag large.png Northwest Airlines 2008   18     50 Trent 1000
May 16, 2005 File:Question mark alternate.png Unknown ?   6        
May 31, 2005 File:Ethiopia flag large.png Ethiopian Airlines 2008   5     -5  
July 31, 2005 File:Morocco flag large.png Royal Air Maroc ?       4 1  
September 7, 2005 File:Poland flag large.png LOT Polish Airlines 2008   7     2 Trent 1000
September 16, 2005 File:Indonesia flag large.png Garuda Indonesia 2011-13       10    
October 13, 2005 File:Us flag large.png ILFC ?       20 4  
October 25 2005 File:Flag of New Zealand.png Air New Zealand[6] 2008   2     -2 Trent 1000
Totals: 309 243

Entries with dates shaded in pink have been announced, but have not yet signed a firm contract.

Initial sales

787 in the livery of launch customer All Nippon Airways (original design)

Customer announced orders and commitments for the 787 reached 237 aircraft during the first year of sales; the total currently stands at 309, with 174 under firm contract. This makes the 787 the fastest-ever selling airliner upon launch; by comparison, the 747 sold 92 units during the same time period. Negotiations remain underway with a number of key airlines worldwide namely. They expect to have 500 orders by entry into service (EIS). No other airliner has ever been projected the same phenomenal sales nor has it achieved such significant interest in the early stages.

The 787-3 and 787-8 variants will be available first. The 787-9 was expected to be available two years later, but the first 2.5 years production has now been sold out for the initial variants, so the introduction of the 787-9 has been delayed in order to fulfill initial demand.

The 787-8 variant was priced at a list price of $120 million per aircraft, surprising the industry, which was expecting a much higher price tag. Like launch customers of past aircraft, ANA is rumored to have received a significant discount; this may never be easily confirmed, however is very common in the aviation industry.

Japanese and other foreign program partners

It also underscores the importance of Japanese industrial participation (35 % workshare with Boeing itself holding 35 %) with most of the subcontractors fully supported and funded by the Japanese government. The Japanese participants are no longer junior partners.

Boeing will assemble the aircraft and manufacture its forward fuselage, tail fin, ailerons, flaps, and slats. For its entire history, Boeing has jealously guarded its techniques for designing and mass producing commercial jetliner wings. Due to economic realities, the wings will be manufactured by Japanese companies in Nagoya, while the horizontal stabilizers will be manufactured by Alenia Aeronautica in Italy, and the fuselage sections by Vought in South Carolina, Alenia in Italy, Kawasaki in Japan, and Spirit AeroSystems, in Wichita.

From France, Messier-Dowty will build the landing gear and Thales will supply the integrated standby flight display, electrical power conversion system, and in-flight entertainment.

Honeywell and Rockwell-Collins will provide flight control, guidance and other avionics systems. The 787 will be the first aircraft in history with standard dual head up guidance systems. Future integration of forward looking infrared is being looked at by Flight Dynamics allowing improved visibility using thermal sensing as part of the HUD system, allowing pilots to "see" through the clouds.

File:B787 Section 41.jpg
Nose section of the 787-8, unveiled at Spirit Wichita for the first time.

The final assembly will consist of attaching fully-completed subassemblies, instead of building the complete aircraft from the ground up. This is a technique which Boeing has previously used on the 737 program, which involves shipping fuselage barrel sections by rail from Spirit's Wichita, Kansas facility to their final assembly plant at Renton, Washington. Airbus has also used this technique in the past, although their case it is more of a political necessity resulting from partner nations' divided workshare.

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

The first composite section rolled out in January of 2005, and final external design was set in April 2005.

Current Sales Information November/December 2005

Currently, Boeing is in talks with many premiere international carriers about purchasing the 'Dreamliner', namely, Singapore Airlines, Emirates (mentioned already), Qantas and Cathay Pacific. These four major international players are expected to announce their decisions by the end of the year.

Other serious prospective customers for the 787 include Air Pacific, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Arabian Airlines, GECAS, RBS Aviation, LAN, Gulf Air, Bangkok Airways, Aeromexico, Etihad Airways, Aerolineas Argentinas, Avianca, American Airlines, and Delta Air Lines. Follow-on orders are also expected from Air New Zealand, Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines all of whom have placed relatively small orders for the 787 to replace very large fleets of aging A330s and B767's.

Boeing will be facing an uphill 'battle' with Airbus fighting back with the fiercely competitive A350 offering greater passenger numbers, equal range, and promising lower operating costs, however the Airbus plane has not entered final design phase as yet. This rival sales campaign coupled with pending WTO decisions on launch aid and subsidies will prove to make 2006 a contentious year.


  • Twin aisle seating. 18.5" standard seat width in coach in a 2+4+2 arrangement, 17.3" in a 3+3+3 arrangement, 2" arm rests, 4" (at the center section of 2+4+2), standard aisle width of 21.5".
  • Cabin interior width at 50" from the floor is 222" with the widest section being 226" (double bubble construction. Two class configuration of 233 seats in two class domestic with 42" first class pitch and 34" coach class. 296 pax in a 3+3+3 coach arrangement with 32" pitch. Up to 226 in a three class with 60" Pitch First (2+2+2 or 2+1+2), 38" Pitch Business (2+3+2 or 2+2+2) and 32" Coach (3+3+3/2+4+2).
  • Cruise speed: 0.85 Mach (903 km/h or 561 mph at altitude)
  • Range of 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km), enough to cover the Los Angeles to London or New York to Tokyo routes.
  • Construction materials (by weight): 61 % composite, 20 % aluminum, 11 % titanium, 8 % steel. Composite materials are significantly lighter and stronger than traditional aircraft materials, making the 787 a very light aircraft for its capabilities. By volume, the 787 will be 80 % composite.
  • The 787 production line will be able to finish an aircraft in as little as three days, compared to 11 days for the 737.
  • Larger windows than any other civil air transport, with a higher eye level, so passengers can see the horizon, with liquid crystal display (LCD)-based "auto-dimming" to reduce cabin glare and maintain transparency.
  • Light-emitting diode (LED) cabin lighting will be used instead of fluorescent tubes, allowing the aircraft to be entirely 'bulbless'.
  • A version of Ethernet (Avionics Full Duplex Switched Ethernet (AFDX)/ ARINC 664) will be used to transmit data between the flight deck and aircraft systems.
  • All multi-function displays on the flight deck will use an industry standard GUI widget toolkit (Cockpit Display System Interfaces to User Systems / ARINC 661) [7]
  • Bleedless turbofans, allowing elimination of superheated air conduits normally used for de-icing, aircraft power, and other functions. These systems are to be replaced with an all-electrical system.
  • Cabin air provided by electrically driven compressors (no engine bleed air).
  • Higher humidity in the passenger cabin because of the use of composites (which don't corrode).
  • The internal pressure will be increased, to the equivalent of 6000 feet (1800 m) altitude versus 8000 (2400 m) on conventional aircraft. This will significantly improve passenger comfort.

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, with the fin less radical than on earlier images.


The 787 is currently being sold in three variants:

  • The 787-3 will be a 296 seat (two class) short-range version targeted at high density flights, with a range of 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km). EIS is 2008. Boeing is targeting the 787-3 to replace the Airbus A300 and A310, and Boeing 757-300, 767-200, and 767-300. The 787-3 will have no direct counterpart from Airbus.
  • The 787-8 will be the "baseline" model, with 223 seats in three classes and a range of 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 km). EIS is 2008. Boeing is targeting the 787-8 to replace the 767-300ER. The 787-8 will have no direct counterpart from Airbus.
  • The 787-9 will be a stretched variant, seating 259 in three classes. The targeted EIS is set at 2010 [8]. Boeing is targeting the 787-9 to replace the Airbus A330-200 and A340-200, Boeing 767-400ER, and McDonnell Douglas DC-10. Airbus is offering the A350-800 in competition.


787-3 787-8 787-9 757-300
(for comparison)
(for comparison)
(for comparison)
Length: 55.5 m 55.5 m 62 m 54.5 m 55.0 m 61.4 m
Height: 16.5 m 16.5 m 16.5 m 13.6 m 15.9 m 16.8 m
Wingspan: 51.6 m 58.8 m 60.0 m 38 m 47.6 m 51.9 m
Cross section: 5.75 m 5.75 m 5.75 m 3.5 m 4.70 m 4.70 m
MTOW: 163,500 kg 216,500 kg 226,800 kg 123,600 kg 156,500 kg 204,120 kg
Seats: 296
two class
three class
three class
two class
three class
three class
Cargo: 16 tons 16 tons 16 tons 10 tons
Engine: GE GENX or
Trent 1000
Trent 1000
Trent 1000
Rolls Royce
or P&W
GE CF6-80C2 or
Pratt & Whitney
GE CF6-80C2
Cruising speed: 0.85 Mach 0.85 Mach 0.85 Mach 0.80 Mach 0.80 Mach 0.80 Mach
Range¹: 6,500 km 15,700 km 15,400 km 6,287 km 7,400 km 10,454 km
Service ceiling: 13,000 m 13,000 m 13,000 m 13,000 m 13,000 m 13,000 m
EIS: 2008 2008 2010 1999 1986 2000

¹ With full load (passengers and cargo)

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