- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2011

ABOARD ANA FLIGHT 7871 (AP) — After a delay of more than three years, Boeing’s much-hyped newest jet, the 787, made its first commercial flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong — and landed on time.

The All Nippon Airways flight was packed mostly with aviation reporters and enthusiasts, some of whom paid thousands of dollars for the privilege and treated the experience like a rock concert, clapping after takeoff and snapping photos for posterity.

“It’s silly, but it’s a little piece of history. New cars come out all the time, but how often do new planes come out?” said Stephanie Wood. She and her husband, Dean, of Davie, Fla., won a charity auction by paying close to $19,000 for two business-class seats.

The 787, which is nicknamed the “Dreamliner,” is neither the fastest nor the largest jet on the market, but it is built out of ultralightweight materials and promises to improve airlines’ fuel efficiency dramatically, a big deal at a time of soaring oil prices.

Boeing also is pitching its 787 as a major upgrade for travelers. It was designed with larger windows, more space in overhead bins and improved lighting. The jet also was designed to provide air pressure and humidity levels that more closely resemble those on the ground, a feature that Boeing says will ease jet lag.

The 787’s inaugural flight came more than 3½ late because Boeing was plagued with manufacturing problems. Parts for the jet are made by 52 suppliers scattered around the globe. And, in a first for Boeing, large sections of the jet are built by these outside vendors and then cobbled together.

That process, aimed at saving money, has not been as smooth as hoped. Instead, Boeing has been forced to pay airlines millions of dollars as a result of the delays. It aims to deliver 10 jets a month to reduce the backlog of nearly 800 and not incur any more penalties.

Boeing also faces pressure from European rival Airbus, which is designing its own lightweight composite jet, the A350. That plane is still several years away from flying.

The most noticeable feature of the 787 is its windows, which are 30 percent larger than those on older jets. Passengers no longer need to hunch forward to see the ground. Those in the middle of the plane can even glance out part of the windows. The shades are replaced with a glare-reducing

electrical dimming system that adds tint to the window within 30 seconds.

Many of the aviation enthusiasts on board Wednesday’s flight carried memorabilia from past inaugural flights. They snapped photos of overhead bins and even the restroom, which is equipped with a window and bidet.

Thomas Lee of Los Angeles handed out his own press release and biography. There was his first inaugural flight — the Boeing 747 as a 17-year-old boy in 1970 — and then the Airbus A380 four years ago.

“I’m not crazy,” he said. “For an aviation enthusiast, this is as high as it gets. It’s like going to a movie on opening day.”

He and the rest of the coach passengers paid 78,700 yen, about $1,035, to be part of the inaugural flight.

The 787 has been sold by Boeing as a “game changer,” promising to revolutionize air travel just as its 707 did by allowing nonstop trans-Atlantic service and the 747 did by ushering in an age of mass travel.

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