Years late, Boeing's dream is finally realised

The Dreamliner first rolled out of the hangar in 2007. So why is it only now ready to fly? Simon Calder reports

The most unusual building in the vast Boeing complex at Everett, north of Seattle, resembles a chic interior-design studio.

Click HERE to download graphic: Boeing's Big Baby Flies The Nest (272.56kB)

The elegant curves of the Dreamliner Gallery embrace the ultimate pick-and-mix showroom. Customers for the world's most advanced airliner choose fixtures and fittings from economy-class seats and business-class bidets to coffee makers and the galley sink. Executives from the dozens of airlines with orders for the Boeing 787 have been flown here to make their selection. But so far none has seen their shiny new toys take to the skies.

Last night, Boeing officials were hoping that a ceremony at Everett marking Federal Aviation Administration approval of the new "Dreamliner" will signal a change in fortunes.

The first of 55 Boeing 787s for the launch customer, ANA of Japan, is due to land in Tokyo a month today. But Britain's airlines must wait for several years for theirs to arrive.

"Certification is a milestone that validates what we have promised the world," said Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

The aircraft represents the most radical innovation in aviation since the Boeing 747 entered service 41 years ago. So high is the 787's specification that, even with a score of cancellations this year, it has the biggest pre-launch order book of any wide-bodied jet. Airlines are hungry for the 20 per cent fuel saving compared with other "big twins", while environmentalists long for the new plane to replace old, thirsty and dirty aircraft.

"The Dreamliner promises to be much cheaper to fly than the aircraft it will replace," said Douglas McNeil, analyst with Charles Stanley Securities. "With $100 oil seemingly here to stay, that can't come quickly enough for the airline industry."

The biggest beneficiaries, though, should be the 250 or so passengers aboard each plane. For the first time, passenger comfort has been at the heart of the design. The windows are much larger than on current aircraft, and are fitted with "smart glass" that is designed to reduce glare and obviate the need for individual shutters.

Unlike present aircraft, which are pressurised to an altitude of 8,000 feet, the 787 is calibrated to 6,000 feet. This margin greatly reduces the debilitating effects of a long flight. Even though the first scheduled link is a Japanese domestic hop of just 340 miles, the 787's range of 8,800 miles will enable non-stop connections from London to previously hard-to-reach destinations such as Bali, Honolulu and the Chilean capital, Santiago. Shorter routes previously abandoned as uneconomic could re-appear: Anchorage, New Orleans, Durban in South Africa, the Peruvian capital Lima and Manila in the Philippines are obvious candidates.

When the British traveller might be able to step aboard such flights remains as hazy as a foggy day at Heathrow. New aircraft traditionally experience delivery delays, but none has experienced a succession of setbacks on the scale of the 787. The plane that was rolled out of the hangar at Everett with much ceremony on 8 July 2007 (7-8-7 according to the US style for dates) was far from ready for take-off. Some failings have been mechanical, such as gaps in the horizontal stabilizers and a surge in a Rolls-Royce engine on a test flight. Information technology has also posed problems, with delays in completing flight software and even fears that passengers using the on-board internet could hack into the flight systems. And even though the 787 uses far fewer fasteners – rivets and bolts – than current aircraft, shortages of these essential components has caused extra delays.

First Choice Airways ordered six of the jets for delivery in 2009. The airline has since been absorbed into Thomson, which declined to say when it might fly the plane. Virgin Atlantic had planned to be flying the 787 this summer, but is now anticipating the summer of 2014. British Airways, which chose its reservations phone number because it ends "787", has two dozen on order – but yesterday all it would say was: "We are in negotiations with Boeing over the delivery schedule."

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Arts and Entertainment
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>
filmRobert Downey Jr named Hollywood's highest paid actor for second year running
Life and Style
Dale Bolinger arranged to meet the girl via a fetish website
Sign here, please: Magna Carta Island
propertyYours for a cool £4m
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Recruitment Consultant (Trainee), Finchley Central, London

    £17K OTE £30K: Charter Selection: Highly successful and innovative specialist...

    Day In a Page

    Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

    The 'scroungers’ fight back

    The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
    Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

    Fireballs in space

    Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
    A Bible for billionaires

    A Bible for billionaires

    Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
    Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

    Paranoid parenting is on the rise

    And our children are suffering because of it
    For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

    Magna Carta Island goes on sale

    Yours for a cool £4m
    Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

    Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

    Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

    For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

    Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary
    Legoland Windsor's master model-makers reveal the tricks of their trade (including how to stop the kids wrecking your Eiffel Tower)

    Meet the people who play with Lego for a living

    They are the master builders: Lego's crack team of model-makers, who have just glued down the last of 650,000 bricks as they recreate Paris in Windsor. Susie Mesure goes behind the scenes
    The 20 best days out for the summer holidays: From Spitfires to summer ferry sailings

    20 best days out for the summer holidays

    From summer ferry sailings in Tyne and Wear and adventure days at Bear Grylls Survival Academy to Spitfires at the Imperial War Museum Duxford and bog-snorkelling at the World Alternative Games...
    Open-air theatres: If all the world is a stage, then everyone gets in on the act

    All the wood’s a stage

    Open-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
    Rand Paul is a Republican with an eye on the world

    Rupert Cornwell: A Republican with an eye on the world

    Rand Paul is laying out his presidential stall by taking on his party's disastrous record on foreign policy
    Self-preservation society: Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish

    Self-preservation society

    Pickles are moving from the side of your plate to become the star dish
    Generation gap opens a career sinkhole

    Britons live ever longer, but still society persists in glorifying youth

    We are living longer but considered 'past it' younger, the reshuffle suggests. There may be trouble ahead, says DJ Taylor