The Boeing 787 Dreamliner or Boeing 787 is an American long-haul, mid-size wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner manufactured by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Its variants seat 242 to 330 passengers in typical two-class seating configurations. It is the first airliner with an airframe constructed primarily of composite materials. The 787 was designed to be 20% more fuel-efficient than the Boeing 767, which it was intended to replace. The 787 Dreamliner’s distinguishing features include mostly electrical flight systems, raked wingtips, and noise-reducing chevrons on its engine nacelles.

The aircraft’s initial designation was the 7E7, prior to its renaming in January 2005. The first 787 was unveiled in a roll-out ceremony on July 8, 2007, at Boeing’s Everett factory. Development and production of the 787 has involved a large-scale collaboration with numerous suppliers worldwide. Final assembly takes place at the Boeing Everett Factory in Everett, Washington, and at the Boeing South Carolina factory in North Charleston, South Carolina. Originally planned to enter service in May 2008, the project experienced multiple delays. The airliner’s maiden flight took place on December 15, 2009, and flight testing was completed in mid-2011. Boeing has reportedly spent $32 billion on the 787 program.

Final US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) type certification was received in August 2011 and the first 787-8 was delivered in September 2011. It entered commercial service on October 26, 2011, with launch customer All Nippon Airways. The stretched 787-9 variant, which is 20 feet (6.1 m) longer and can fly 450 nautical miles (830 km) farther than the -8, first flew in September 2013. Deliveries of the 787-9 began in July 2014; it entered commercial service on August 7, 2014, with All Nippon Airways, with 787-9 launch customer Air New Zealand following two days later. As of June 2019, the 787 had orders for 1,441 aircraft from 72 identified customers.

The aircraft has suffered from several in-service problems related to its lithium-ion batteries, including fires on board during commercial service. These systems were reviewed by both the FAA and the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau. The FAA issued a directive in January 2013 that grounded all 787s in the US and other civil aviation authorities followed suit. After Boeing completed tests on a revised battery design, the FAA approved the revised design and lifted the grounding in April 2013; the 787 returned to passenger service later that month.

Background

During the late 1990s, Boeing considered replacement aircraft programs as sales of the 767 and 747-400 slowed. Two new aircraft were proposed. The 747X would have lengthened the 747-400 and improved efficiency, and the Sonic Cruiser would have achieved 15% higher speeds (approximately Mach 0.98) while burning fuel at the same rate as the 767. Market interest for the 747X was tepid; however, several major American airlines, including Continental Airlines, showed initial enthusiasm for the Sonic Cruiser, although concerns about the operating cost were also expressed. The global airline market was disrupted by the September 11, 2001, attacks and increased petroleum prices, making airlines more interested in efficiency than speed. The worst-affected airlines, those in the United States, had been considered the most likely customers of the Sonic Cruiser; thus the Sonic Cruiser was officially cancelled on December 20, 2002. On January 29, 2003 Boeing announced an alternative product, the 7E7, using Sonic Cruiser technology in a more conventional configuration. The emphasis on a smaller midsize twinjet rather than a large 747-size aircraft represented a shift from hub-and-spoke theory toward the point-to-point theory, in response to analysis of focus groups.

Randy Baseler, Boeing Commercial Airplanes VP Marketing stated that airport congestion comes from a large numbers of regional jets and small single-aisles, flying to destinations where a 550-seat A380 would be too large; to reduce the number of departures, smaller airplanes can increase 20% in size and airline hubs can be avoided with point-to-point transit.

The Dreamliner logo
 
The Dreamliner name was announced in July 2003. This logo is painted on many 787s.

The replacement for the Sonic Cruiser project was named “7E7” (with a development code name of “Y2”). Technology from the Sonic Cruiser and 7E7 was to be used as part of Boeing’s project to replace its entire airliner product line, an endeavor called the Yellowstone Project (of which the 7E7 became the first stage). Early concept images of the 7E7 included rakish cockpit windows, a dropped nose and a distinctive “shark-fin” tail. The “E” was said to stand for various things, such as “efficiency” or “environmentally friendly”; however, in the end, Boeing said that it merely stood for “Eight”. In July 2003, a public naming competition was held for the 7E7, for which out of 500,000 votes cast online the winning title was Dreamliner. Other names included eLinerGlobal Cruiser, and Stratoclimber.

All Nippon Airways launched the 787 program with an order for 50 aircraft in 2004.

On April 26, 2004, Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA) became the launch customer for the 787, announcing a firm order for 50 aircraft with deliveries to begin in late 2008. The ANA order was initially specified as 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 Narita–Beijing, and could perform routes to cities not previously served, such as Denver, Moscow, and New Delhi. The 787-3 and 787-8 were to be the initial variants, with the 787-9 entering service in 2010.

The 787 was designed to be the first production airliner with the fuselage comprising one-piece composite barrel sections instead of the multiple aluminum sheets and some 50,000 fasteners used on existing aircraft. Boeing selected two new engines to power the 787, the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 and General Electric GEnx. Boeing stated the 787 would be approximately 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the 767, with approximately 40 percent of the efficiency gain from the engines, plus gains from aerodynamic improvements, increased use of lighter-weight composite materials, and advanced systems. The airframe underwent extensive structural testing during its design. The 787-8 and -9 were intended to have a certified 330 minute ETOPS capability.

During the design phase, the 787 underwent extensive wind tunnel testing at Boeing’s Transonic Wind Tunnel, QinetiQ’s five-meter wind tunnel at Farnborough, United Kingdom, and NASA Ames Research Center’s wind tunnel, as well as at the French aerodynamics research agency, ONERA. The final styling was more conservative than earlier proposals, with the fin, nose, and cockpit windows changed to a more conventional form. By 2005, customer-announced orders and commitments for the 787 reached 237 aircraft. Boeing initially priced the 787-8 variant at US$120 million, a low figure that surprised the industry. In 2007, the list price was US$146–151.5 million for the 787-3, US$157–167 million for the 787-8 and US$189–200 million for the 787-9.

Service entry and early operations

Certification cleared the way for deliveries and in 2011, Boeing prepared to increase 787 production rates from two to ten aircraft per month at assembly lines in Everett and Charleston over two years. Legal difficulties clouded production at Charleston; on April 20, 2011, the National Labor Relations Board alleged that a second production line in South Carolina violated two sections of the National Labor Relations Act. In December 2011, the National Labor Relations Board dropped its lawsuit after the Machinists’ union withdrew its complaint as part of a new contract with Boeing. The first 787 assembled at South Carolina was rolled out on April 27, 2012.

The first 787 was officially delivered to All Nippon Airways (ANA) on September 25, 2011, at the Boeing factory. A ceremony to mark the occasion was also held the next day. On September 27, it flew to Tokyo Haneda Airport. The airline took delivery of the second 787 on October 13, 2011.

 
All Nippon Airways 787 JA801A flew the first commercial flight from Tokyo Narita Airport to Hong Kong International Airport on October 26, 2011.

On October 26, 2011, an ANA 787 flew the first commercial flight from Tokyo Narita Airport to Hong Kong International Airport. The airliner entered service some three years later than originally planned. Tickets for the flight were sold in an online auction; the highest bidder had paid $34,000 for a seat. An ANA 787 flew its first long-haul flight to Europe on January 21, 2012 from Haneda to Frankfurt Airport.

On December 6, 2011, test aircraft ZA006 (sixth 787), powered by General Electric GEnx engines, flew 10,710 nmi (19,830 km) non-stop from Boeing Field eastward to Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka, Bangladesh, setting a new world distance record for aircraft in the 787’s weight class, which is between 440,000 and 550,000 lb (200,000 and 250,000 kg). This flight surpassed the previous record of 9,127 nautical miles (16,903 km), set in 2002 by an Airbus A330. The Dreamliner then continued eastbound from Dhaka to return to Boeing Field, setting a world-circling speed record of 42 hours, 27 minutes. In December 2011, Boeing started a six-month promotion 787 world tour, visiting various cities in China, Africa, the Middle East, Europe, United States, and others. In April 2012, an ANA 787 made a delivery flight from Boeing Field to Haneda Airport partially using biofuel from cooking oil.

ANA surveyed 800 passengers who flew the 787 from Tokyo to Frankfurt: expectations were surpassed for 90% of passengers; features that met or exceeded expectations included air quality and cabin pressure (90% of passengers), cabin ambiance (92% of passengers), higher cabin humidity levels (80% of passengers), headroom (40% of passengers) and the larger windows (90% of passengers). 25% said they would go out of their way to again fly on the 787.

 
The second and third United Airlines 787-8s at Los Angeles International Airport. United Airlines is the North American launch customer for all three 787 variants.

After its first six months of service, Rolls-powered ANA aircraft were burning around 21% less fuel than the replaced 767-300ER on international flights, slightly better than the 20% originally expected, and 15–20% on domestic routes, while GE-powered Japan Airlines aircraft were potentially slightly better. Other 787 operators have reported similar fuel savings, ranging from 20–22% compared with the 767-300ER. An analysis by consultant AirInsight concluded that United Airlines’ 787s achieved an operating cost per seat that was 6% lower than the Airbus A330. In November 2017, International Airlines Group chief Willie Walsh said that for its budget carrier Level the lower cost of ownership of its two A330-200 more than offsets the 13,000 lb (6 t) higher fuel burn ($3,500 on a Barcelona-Los Angeles flight). It would introduce three more A330s as there were not enough 787 pilots.

Early operators discovered that if the APS5000 Auxiliary power unit was shut down with the inlet door closed, heat continued to build up in the tail compartment and cause the rotor shaft to bow. It could take up to 2 hours for the shaft to straighten again. This was particularly acute on short haul flights as there was insufficient time to allow the unit to cool before a restart was needed. Procedures were modified and the APU was later redesigned to address the issue.

On September 15, 2012, the NTSB requested the grounding of certain 787s due to GE engine failures; GE believed the production problem had been fixed by that time. In March 2014, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries informed Boeing of a new problem that was caused by a change in manufacturing processes. Employees did not fill gaps with shims to connect wing rib aluminum shear ties to the carbon composite wing panels; the tightened fasteners, without shims, cause excessive stress that creates hairline cracks in the wings, which could enlarge and cause further damage. Forty-two aircraft awaiting delivery were affected, and each one required 1–2 weeks to inspect and repair. However, Boeing did not expect this problem to affect the overall delivery schedule, even if some airplanes were delivered late.

Dispatch reliability is an industry standard measure of the rate of departure from the gate with no more than 15 minutes delay due to technical issues. The 787-8 started out with a ~96% operational reliability, increasing to ~98.5% in April 2015. Daily utilization increased from five hours in 2013 to twelve hours in 2014. Dispatch reliability grew to 99.3% in 2017.

Airlines have often assigned the 787 to routes previously flown by larger aircraft that could not return a profit. For example, Air Canada offered a Toronto to New Delhi route, first utilizing a Lockheed L1011, then a Boeing 747, then an Airbus A340, but none of these types were efficient enough to generate profit. The airline operated the route profitably with a 787-9, and credits the right number of seats and greater fuel efficiency for this success.

Up to June 30, 2017, after 565 units were delivered since 2011: 60% -8 (340) and 40% -9 (225), the airports with most 787 departures are Haneda airport with 304 weekly, Narita with 276 and Doha Airport with 265. By the end of 2017, there were 39 airlines operating the 787 on 983 routes with an average length of 5,282 km (2,852 nmi), including 163 new routes (17%).As of 24 March 2018, the 787’s longest route is Qantas’ Perth-London Heathrow, a distance of 14,499 km (7,829 nmi) and the second-longest regular scheduled flight behind Qatar Airways’ 14,529 km (7,845 nmi) route from Doha to Auckland, flown with a Boeing 777-200LR.

Design

Overview

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a long-haul, widebody, twin-engine jetliner, which features light-weight construction. The aircraft is 80% composite by volume; Boeing lists its materials by weight as 50% composite, 20% aluminum, 15% titanium, 10% steel, and 5% other. Aluminum has been used throughout the wing and tail leading edges, titanium is predominantly present within the elements of the engines and fasteners, while various individual components are composed of steel.

External features include a smooth nose contour, raked wingtips and engine nacelles with noise-reducing serrated edges (chevrons). The longest-range 787 variant can fly 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles (9,200 to 9,800 mi; 14,800 to 15,700 km), enough to cover the Los Angeles to Bangkok and New York City to Hong Kong routes. Its cruising airspeed is Mach 0.85, equivalent to 561 mph (903 km/h; 487 kn) at typical cruise altitudes. The aircraft has a design life of 44,000 flight cycles.

Flight systems

Among 787 flight systems, a key change from traditional airliners is the electrical architecture. The architecture is bleedless and replaces bleed air with electrically powered compressors and four of six hydraulic power sources with electrically driven pumps, while completely eliminating pneumatics and hydraulics from some subsystems, e.g. engine starters and brakes. Boeing says that this system extracts 35% less power from the engines, allowing increased thrust and improved fuel efficiency. The total available on-board electrical power is 1.45 megawatts, which is five times the power available on conventional pneumatic airliners; the most notable electrically powered systems include engine start, cabin pressurization, horizontal-stabilizer trim, and wheel brakes. Wing ice protection is another new system; it uses electro-thermal heater mats on the wing slats instead of traditional hot bleed air. An active gust alleviation system, similar to the system used on the B-2 bomber, improves ride quality during turbulence.

The 787 has a “fly-by-wire” control system similar in architecture to that of the Boeing 777. The flight deck features multi-function LCDs, which use an industry-standard graphical user interface widget toolkit (Cockpit Display System Interfaces to User Systems / ARINC 661). The 787 flight deck includes two head-up displays (HUDs) as a standard feature. Like other Boeing airliners, the 787 uses a yoke instead of a side-stick. Under consideration is future integration of forward-looking infrared into the HUD for thermal sensing, allowing pilots to “see” through clouds.Lockheed Martin’s Orion spacecraft will use a glass cockpit derived from Honeywell International’s 787 flight deck systems.

Honeywell and Rockwell Collins provide flight control, guidance, and other avionics systems, including standard dual head-up guidance systems, Thales supplies the integrated standby flight display and power management, while Meggitt/Securaplane provides the auxiliary power unit (APU) starting system, electrical power-conversion system, and battery-control system with lithium cobalt oxide (LiCoO2) batteries by GS Yuasa. One of the two batteries weighs 28.5 kg and is rated 29.6 V, 76 Ah, giving 2.2 kWh. Battery charging is controlled by four independent systems to prevent overcharging, following early lab testing. The battery systems were the focus of a regulatory investigation due to multiple lithium battery fires, which led to grounding of the 787 fleet starting in January 2013.

A version of Ethernet (Avionics Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet (AFDX) / ARINC 664) transmits data between the flight deck and aircraft systems. The control, navigation, and communication systems are networked with the passenger cabin’s in-flight internet systems. In January 2008, FAA concerns were reported regarding possible passenger access to the 787’s computer networks; Boeing has stated that various protective hardware and software solutions are employed, including air gaps to physically separate the networks, and firewalls for software separation. These measures prevent data transfer from the passenger internet system to the maintenance or navigation systems.

The -9/10 hybrid laminar flow control (HLFC) system delays the critical transition from laminar to turbulent flow as far back as possible on the vertical tail by passive suction from leading-edge holes to mid-fin low-pressure doors, but was dropped from the tailplane due to lower benefits than the extra complexity and cost.

Engines

The chevron-toothed exhaust duct covers on the first 787, shown here with thrust-reversers deployed

The 787 is powered by two engines; these engines use all-electrical bleedless systems, eliminating the superheated air conduits normally used for aircraft power, de-icing, and other functions. As part of its “Quiet Technology Demonstrator 2” project, Boeing adopted several engine noise-reducing technologies for the 787. These include an air inlet containing sound-absorbing materials and exhaust duct cover with a chevron-toothed pattern on the rim for a quieter mixing of exhaust and outside air. Boeing expects these developments to make the 787 significantly quieter both inside and out. The noise-reducing measures prevent sounds above 85 decibels from leaving airport boundaries.

The two different engine models compatible with the 787 use a standard electrical interface to allow an aircraft to be fitted with either Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 or General Electric GEnx engines. This interchangeability aims to save time and cost when changing engine types; while previous aircraft could exchange engines for those of a different manufacturer, the high cost and time required made it rare. In 2006, Boeing addressed reports of an extended change period by stating that the 787 engine swap was intended to take 24 hours.

In 2016, Rolls Royce began flight testing its new Trent 1000 TEN engine. It has a new compressor system based on the compressor in Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engine and a new turbine design for extra thrust, up to 78,000 lbf (350 kN). Rolls Royce plans to offer the TEN on the 787-8, -9 and -10.

In early 2018, of 1277 orders, 681 selected GE (53.3%), 420 Rolls-Royce (32.9%) and 176 were undecided (13.8%).


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