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Boeing 787 / 7E7 Dreamliner

On 15 December 2009, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner made its first test flight, taking off from Boeing Field in Washington state. It had completed ground testing at Paine Field in Everett, Washington over the preceeding weekend.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes has focused its new airplane product development efforts on the Boeing 7E7, a super-efficient airplane. The 7E7 designation signaled the company's commitment to develop a new airplane with major breakthroughs in efficiency, economics, environmental performance, exceptional comfort and convenience, e-enabled systems, and more. The 7E7 would replace the heavier, less efficient, shorter-range 767 (built in Everett) and possibly the single-aisle 757 (built in Renton). The company will keep building its larger 747 and 777 jetliners in Everett for at least a dozen more years, and probably longer.

The airplane will be based on the enabling technologies developed with a global industry team during the company's examination of the Sonic Cruiser concept. In December 2002, Boeing announced that based on customer input and market analysis, it would focus these new technologies on a super-efficient, mid-sized airplane.

Authority to offer the airplane was expected in late 2003, with the first firm offers being made to airlines in early 2004. Production was to begin in 2005. First flight is expected in 2007 with certification, delivery and entry into service occurring in 2008. The market potential for a new airplane of this size is forecasted at up to 3,000 units over the next 20 years.

Boeing Co. replaced its top executive for commercial-airplane sales in December 2004 after the company had conceded that it failed to meet its goal of booking about 200 orders for its new 7E7 Dreamliner jet by year's end. Toby Bright accepted a demotion and work in an unspecified role in commercial airplanes. Boeing had only 52 firm orders booked for the 7E7. All but two come from All Nippon Airways of Japan.

The 787-8 Dreamliner and 787-9 airplanes will carry 223-259 passengers in tri-class configurations on routes of 8,500 and 8,300 nautical miles (15,700 and 15,400 kilometers) respectively. A third 787 family member, the 787-3 Dreamliner, will accommodate nearly 296 passengers in a two-class configuration and be optimized for routes of 3,500 nautical miles (6,500 km).

Boeing decided in late 2003 to add the third, short-range, member to the 7E7 Dreamliner family. The new 7E7 family member also will feature changes in the wing and landing gear to optimize its mission. The other member of the 7E7 family is a stretch version that will be about 20-feet (six meters) longer than the baseline and shorter-range 7E7 and be capable of flights of 8,300 nautical miles (15,400 kilometers).

In addition to bringing big-jet ranges to mid-size airplanes, the new airplane will provide airlines with unmatched fuel efficiency, resulting in exceptional environmental performance. The airplane will use 15 to 20 percent less fuel for comparable missions than any other wide body airplane. It will also travel at speeds similar to today's fastest wide bodies, about Mach 0.85. Passengers will also see improvements with the new airplane, from an interior environment with higher humidity to increased comfort and convenience.

Advances in materials are allowing the team to evaluate new composite and aluminum possibilities to find the best solutions for durability and cost. The 7E7 may become the first commercial jet to be made with most of its primary structure consisting of composite materials. Composite materials got the nod over rival aluminium alloys as they provided greater durability, reduced maintenance, and increased potential for future development. Interestingly, there was little weight difference between the two materials and the cost of the fabricating composite components has become more competitive. It is also possible that sensors will be embedded into the composite structures to monitor the health and help schedule maintenance.

An open architecture will be at the heart of the 7E7's systems, which will be more simplified than today's airplanes but offer increased functionality. For example, the team is looking at incorporating health-monitoring systems that will allow the airplane to self-monitor and report maintenance requirements to ground-based computer systems. Another improvement in efficiency will come in the way the airplane is designed and built. New technologies and processes are in development to help Boeing and its partners achieve unprecedented levels of performance at every phase of the program.

The 7E7 has a distinctive nose shape, new wing tip concepts and a sculpted vertical tail structure. Boeing wants to go beyond the early, conventional image of the 7E7 to something that people will know by sight -- like the way everyone knows a 747 when we see one. The basic shape of large commercial jet airplanes has remained essentially unchanged since the introduction of the Boeing 707 nearly 50 years ago. There's a good reason for that. The shape is optimal for achieving lift, fighting drag and producing efficient, comfortable flight. Subtle touches, however, can be added to produce a more unique shape without affecting the performance of the airplane. Engineers are studying these touches for consideration on the new 7E7.

An international team of aerospace companies is developing the airplane, led by Boeing at its Everett facility. Boeing is teaming with more than 20 international systems suppliers to develop technologies and design concepts for the 7E7. As the technology development work concludes, the same companies compete to become ongoing suppliers to the program. Members of the Systems Technology Team include: ECE Zodiac, Messier-Bugatti and Thales from France; Diehl and Liebherr-Aerospace Lindenberg from Germany; Teijin Seiki from Japan; FR-HiTemp and Smiths Aerospace from the United Kingdom; and BAE SYSTEMS (also United Kingdom), Connexion by Boeing, Crane Aerospace, Fairchild Controls, Goodrich Corporation, General Dynamics, Hamilton Sundstrand, Honeywell, Matsushita Avionics Systems, Moog, Parker Hannifin Corporation, Rockwell Collins, and Triumph Group from the United States.

Excluding the engine, Boeing is looking to have 70 to 80 percent of the new plane built by other companies. Final assembly of the 7E7 could be cut from 13-17 days [needed for the 747 and 777] to as few as three days, with employees snapping together large components rather than riveting and welding an entire aluminum plane.

In June 2003 at the Paris Air Show, Boeing announced the airframe candidate companies that were selected to participate in the design and manufacture of large subassemblies: Alenia Aeronautica, Fuji Heavy Industries, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and Vought Aircraft Industries. The Japanese companies have already snagged 20 percent of the project, presumably to provide whole composite fuselages or fuselage sections. These three Japanese companies and the Japan Aircraft Development Corporation, an industrial group, have requested government funding for the three Japanese manufacturers. Alenia Aeronautica of Italy announced it has landed about 10 percent of the project, also to provide major components.

Boeing is working with General Electric, Pratt & Whitney and Rolls-Royce to develop engines for the new airplane. It is expected that advances in engine technology will contribute as much as 8 percent of the increased efficiency of the new airplane, representing a nearly two-generation jump in technology for the middle of the market.

Boeing intends to build the 7E7 in a location that gives it the best opportunity to be successful. If the airplane is not assembled at a Boeing site in Washington State, the work will be done in one of the other states competing for the final assembly work. Boeing has identified the criteria it will consider in choosing the final assembly location. These are based on program needs that include comprehensive criteria for infrastructure, logistics and cost-competitiveness. Boeing has also decided that only US-based locations will be considered candidates for the final assembly location. McCallum Sweeney Consulting, Inc., has been retained to help conduct the site selection. Proposals from interested states were due June 20, 2003. A Boeing team, in partnership with McCallum Sweeney, will evaluate the proposals against the entire set of criteria. Proposals must meet all the criteria to remain in consideration.

Boeing estimates that final assembly of the 7E7 will require 800 to 1,200 workers, while acknowledging that it could be fewer if components are supplied in larger, more finished pieces. The 7E7 program would mean 800 to 1,200 initial aerospace jobs, but perhaps a couple thousand more jobs by 2008 when the plane begins service, as many as 3,500 related aerospace jobs and a payroll of $600 million that would impact up to 13,000 people who provide goods and services. That combination of direct and indirect spending could mean an additional $1.2 billion for the local economy.

Action Washington is a bipartisan effort focused on encouraging Boeing to assemble the 7E7 in Washington State. On 20 June 2003 the State of Washington submitted a proposal to the Boeing Co. to make Washington State the site of its 7E7 final assembly plant. Snohomish County's City of Everett already is home to Boeing's largest manufacturing facility. The state's proposal to Boeing includes an estimated $3 billion in tax incentives for the aerospace industry during the next 20 years if the Boeing 7E7 is built in Washington state; a transportation-improvement package that includes a 5-cent-a-gallon gas tax hike to help ease congestion and improve traffic safety across the state; and reforms to the state's unemployment insurance and injured workers' compensation systems. At least 16 other states besides Washington expressed interest - and prepared proposals - to land the 7E7.

Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways may be the first to fly the 7E7 Dreamliner. In the past, Boeing has always worked closely with a U.S. airline in development of an airliner but cash-strapped airlines don't have the need or interest to get involved with the massive project now.

An example of the novel approaches Boeing is applying to the 7E7 is the naming. A team led by Boeing Commercial Airplanes Marketing cultivated a variety of internal and external sources to generate ideas. An external naming consultant and numerous employees offered several ideas for names that the team thought would best fit the brand Boeing wants to create for the 7E7.

Boeing entered into a new marketing approach and alliance with AOL Time Warner Inc. to understand the priorities and needs of the flying public. People from around the world were invited to participate in the "Name Your Plane" effort and choose from among four potential names: Dreamliner, eLiner, Global Cruiser and Stratoclimber. Boeing and AOL Time Warner Inc. also made a special effort to involve children in the naming. A special issue of TIME For Kids, sent to more than 2 million students in grades four through six, featured the history of flight, introduced kids to the 7E7 and invited them to help name the new plane.

The company could offer its new 787 model as the basis for a future tanker.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:27:43 ZULU