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A Little Smoke Can't Stop, Won't Stop the Boeing 787 Dreamliner

January 16, 2013 at 2:22 PM | by | ()

"Everyone on the bus!"

It was a nippy morning outside of Seattle and two loads of Boeing top brass and members of the press were being bussed out onto the tarmac at the airline manufacturer's Paine Field Airport. This would be the very first peek inside the shiniest airplane on the flight line before ANA/All Nippon Airways flew her away to Tokyo. The other airplanes on the tarmac, windows still blacked out and engines still unconnected, could have felt nothing but jealousy (if airplanes had feelings, that is).

This was 16 full months ago, in September 2011, when Boeing first delivered a 787 Dreamliner to a customer airline. We were there, onboard that bus, and then, later, inside that plane, running our palms over the new seat fabric and imagining the thousands of eager travelers who'd sit in each individual seat during only the first few months of service. Would they know what a special plane they were on?

At the time, with the 787 untried and untested by regular commercial service, the press and guests would have eagerly hopped on for a flight. The feeling is much the same now, despite this week's battery problems and emergency landing. Having just come off a 10-hour 787 flight ourselves last week, we'd have absolutely no hesitation in jumping on another. Okay, that's not true—we'd have one hesitation, and that's whether or not we'd actually end up with the 787, as evidenced by our struggle to fly the United Dreamliner.

A colleague even followed up a United cross-country flight last week with this remark to us: "So I saw that intro video United has on their seatback TVs, touting the Dreamliner. All I could think after it was, why am I on this stinking plane and not that one?"

ANA and Japan Airlines have grounded their small fleets of 787s for further inspections, while the other airlines operating Dreamliners (United, Air India, LAN, LOT, Ethiopian Airlines, Qatar Airways) continue regular operations; LOT even went ahead with today's inaugural of long-haul 787 service between Warsaw and Chicago.

An informal poll taken last night on Twitter and Facebook by @AirlineReporter returned with the result that other journalists, frequent flyers and aviation geeks are still fully confident in the plane and would fly it without hesitation. This is echoed by The Telegraph UK's aviation writer and veteran of two 787 inaugurals, Peter Hughes, who puts his own positivity into excellent perspective: "But the key question is would I fly on the 787 again? Undoubtedly, yes. The most serious of the 787’s problems seem to have been component failures, unrelated to the most radical aspects of the aircraft’s design."

We're not saying to throw all caution to the wind and book as many of your upcoming flights on Dreamliners as possible, though we're also not not saying that. What we are saying is that the 787 still has the support of some of whom know her best—namely those journalists, frequent flyers and aviation geeks who obsess over every detail, whereas the freaking out is coming from afternoon news anchors and the couple sitting next to us at lunch, who this week jabber about the Dreamliner in the same disappointed tone as last week they did over the news of Kim Kardashian's pregnancy with Kanye West's baby.

If you've read this far down, then let us conclude by offering up some enthralling further reading:
· "Fresh Jet Glitches Bedevil Boeing" by Jon Ostrower at Wall Street Journal
· "The Boeing 787 Dreamliner — The Good, The Bad and The Ugly" by Brandon Farris at AirlineReporter.com
· "Will the Dreamliner ever live up to its name?" by Peter Hughes at The Telegraph UK
· "Boeing's Troubled 787" infographic at CNBC

...and some exclusive photo galleries of our own:
· Inside the factory where the 787 is made
· All around the exterior of a new 787
· The interior of an ANA 787 just like the one that emergency landed
· Boeing Dreamliner Gallery (aka where you go if you're an airline looking to buy some jets)

[Photos: Jaunted]

Archived Comments:

Oh boy

My biggest problem with the 787 is that it was made for ALL passengers, not just airline industry journos and other aviation geeks. it promised a better life--for 10 hours in the sky at least. and right now, it's not living up to that promise. yes, the battery problems are not part of any flaws with the plane's design but emergency landings are no fun.

i guess my biggest disappointment with the dreamliner is that after SO LONG of hearing about it and how it was going to change the way we fly, it's just such a letdown. i mean, i'll keep the faith and all but right now, it's disappointing.