787 Tenth Anniversary Report

To make a Boeing 787 requires 62 miles of wiring (that’s a real Boeing-supplied fact) and enough carbon fibre to stretch to the Moon (I just made that up but it’s probably not far off). Even more impressively, the aircraft’s remarkable features – carbon composite structure, all-electric systems, big windows, higher cabin pressure, global supply chain and, alas, the hiccups and miscalculations that meant a three-and-a-half year delay in getting it into service – have inspired at least that many column inches in the press (maybe not enough to reach the Moon, but certainly as much as the wiring, which is still an awful lot).

As the aircraft finally enters service, it is interesting to ask which of its features will be most remarked on when time comes, say in 10 years’ time, to write an article about “how the 787 has changed aviation”.

My guess is that all those features, while impressive and most welcome (apart from the development delay), will have become quite normal (probably including the development delay). We will look back and identify the 787 as a milestone in aircraft design and construction, but aviation will not have changed so much – certainly not in the way it changed with the advent of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet, which shrank the world by makling long-haul travel a mass-market commodity.

What will prove significant about the 787 is that we, as passengers, will for the first time relate to an aircraft the way we relate to our personal computers, mobile phones and music players. Especially as its onboard entertainment and communication systems evolve and become more interactive and inter-linked to our personal devices, it will be the first aircraft that we start to think of not as a transportation vessel but as part of our lives.

The 787 is not, of course, the first or only airliner to offer 21st century in-flight entertainment and communications. But there is something particularly elegant about the way it integrates the latest construction technology with its flight controls and passenger experience. In that seamlessness, the 787 is to airliners as the Mac has been to personal computing. That is, the 787 just might be seen as the world’s first airplane-sized personal electronic gadget.

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2 Responses to 787 Tenth Anniversary Report

  1. Uwe 14 October, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    “The 787 world’s first airplane-sized personal electronic gadget.”

    And you would be wrong ;-)
    see:
    http://www.heise.de/ct/schlagseite/2003/1/gross.jpg

    “New hardware found : A320
    Auto Configure ? [yes] [abort]

    found via
    http://www.heise.de/ct/schlagseite/2003/1/

    Anyway I think Airbus is further along in developing a unified and _save_ general communications access structure.

  2. Michael C 17 October, 2011 at 12:13 pm #

    “it will be the first aircraft that we start to think of not as a transportation vessel but as part of our lives.”

    I think it is more likely this is one of those articles, especially one of those lines, that Flight readers could look back on in 10 years time and have a good laugh at.

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