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It flies! It actually flies!
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a headline hog. You can read all about it and its drama (lately more than ever) throughout major media, but there's nothing better than actually stepping onboard with a ticket to ride.
After more than a year of hanging out with the 787 on the tarmac, we finally flew the darned thing as South American airline LAN celebrated the inaugural flight of their new Los Angeles-to-Santiago, Chile 10-hour non-stop with the spiffy new bird.
So, what actually happens onboard a 787 flight? Is it really so different from any other airplane? Having just stepped off of this, our first 787 flight, we can finally answer those questions: lots of stuff and yes.
To describe a 10-hour flight is akin to boring neighbors with photo slides of a water park vacation. Instead, we're breaking it down into the hourly highlights ("the short of it") and, for those rapt with pleasure for every detail, the long of it, in first-person:
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While this week hasn't exactly been all sunshine and rainbows for airlines flying their Boeing 787 Dreamliners around the world, last week sure was. On January 2, we stepped onboard aircraft CC-BBC, the gleaming new third 787 delivered to South American airline LAN for what would be a monumental inaugural flight, non-stop from Los Angeles-LAX to Santiago, Chile-SCL.
Our ticket read seat 1L. As the first row, first window on the right, that's practically a cockpit jumpseat (though our legroom and recline would be better). This would be more than a first 787 flight from LAX; it would be our own, personal first 787 flight. To say we were psyched is a gross understatement. The energy and optimism rippled through the line of waiting passengers in all classes, holding all types of tickets, as a special party for the full flight began at the gate.
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How do you say "787?" Seven-eight-seven or seven-eighty-seven? Though technically both are perfectly acceptable, the language may vary depending on the country to/from which you're flying the new airplane. And, since United is the only US operator of the airlines with Boeing 787 Dreamliners, the international names for the bird are more prevalent.
Before we set off on last week's LAN inaugural flight from LAX-SCL on their newest Dreamliner, @PointstoPointB tweeted us to ask: "how do they call the plane in Spanish onboard? Siete Ocho Siete? Siete Ochenta y Siete? El Sueñoliner?"
Well, dearest @PointstoPointB and future flyers of the LAN Dreamliner, we cleared up the issue firsthand with LAN's flight attendants. Their answer:
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This is the future.
There may be no personal jetpacks or hoverboards or even cheesecake in pill form, but at least we have advanced enough as a civilization to install self-closing toilet lids in airplane lavatories.
Onboard the inaugural flight of the LAN 787 from LAX non-stop to Santiago, Chile earlier this week, we had 10 hours to explore the 787 in-flight, in both Economy and Premium Business class, and made the question of the lavatory a priority. Check back Tuesday for our full review and photo galleries of the flight, but let's resolve this important issue right here and now.
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Hello from LAX! Today we're off to Santiago, Chile (our 2012 Destination of the Year), though this time it's not the city we're checking out; we're flying 10-ish hours each way simply for the airplane taking us there. That's rightit's the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and this is yet another huge entry on its history timeline as LAN inaugurates a fresh route with their spanking new wings.
LAN Airlines was the fourth carrier to receive a Dreamliner, but first in the Americas. Today they tack on a few more records, as this inaugural flightLAN 603 LAX - SCLis...
· The first 787 scheduled service from LAX
· LAN's first 787 route to North America
· The first 787 service overall between North and South America
· The first non-stop service from LAX to Santiago, Chile (a new route that'll operate 3x/week, Wednesday-Friday-Sunday)
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"I just stepped off United's 787 Dreamliner and, boy, let me tell you about its awesomeness."
That's the sentence I had hoped to type to you today.
Instead, my story, typed from a hotel lobby across the country from home, goes a little something like this: "I flew to California and have nothing but disappointment." I only wanted to fly the United Dreamliner and had sought out an affordable route that included the 787 on one leg, from Newark (EWR) to Houston-George Bush (IAH). That routing just happened to go to Ontario, California. Whatever, so long as I get my 787 action. I booked it in October and also paid to upgrade to EconomyPlus. 24 hours before my flight, still seeing the 787 listed as my aircraft, I went ahead and booked a hotel night.
In case you aren't up on your Dreamliner news, the planes have had some electrical issues (resulting in non-life-threatening emergency landings) and United's been taking them off and on their routes. Reuters & WSJ have the latest updates. Knowing this, I had obsessively checked my travel details daily, fingers crossed that the 787 would stick. It did. Until it didn't.
Now I've wasted hundreds of dollars and have no United 787 photo galleries or stories to share with you, other than this sad one of lack of communication from United and a dreaded equipment change.
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The skies are gray. The building is gray. The airships are gray. Waitairships?! Yeah, we just said airships.
It's in the 40s here in Friedrichshafen, Germany, but we've taken this detour to the southern edge of the country for a few reasons that don't care what the weather forecast says.
For one, it's the birthplace of the Zeppelin airship, way back when Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin decided to get in the balloon business. Perhaps you're most familiar with the Hindenburg (cue "oh the humanity") as that was a Zeppelin craft, though technology means they're built far safer and better these days. At the Zeppelin Halle near Friedrichshafen-Bodensee Airport, the dirigibles still take passengers up on the same route over Lake Constance as the Count's 1900 maiden flight. In town, there's that Zeppelin Museum we've previously written about.
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It's now being joked that Red Bull has a better space program than most countries, after Felix Baumgartner's successful "Red Bull Stratos" sky dive from 128,000 feet yesterday. It's also being said that all the media and social media attention directed at the event, which drew some 5 million live viewers on YouTube, is worth $5 billion. That's a huge profit on the $25 million and 5 years they put into making the mission a reality.
Alas, it's not just space jumps the energy drink has a hand in; Red Bull slaps their logo on everything from soapbox derbies to jumprope competitions, but since Red Bull "gives you wings," they do sponsor their fair share of aviation events. Let's look at the big three:
Red Bull Flugtag
Here's what happens. You get some friends or coworkers together and register as a team. Your team builds some sort of flying contraption. It gets launched off a ramp above water. It crashes into said water, but hopefully scores a few feet of precious flight first. Thousands cheer from the riverside/lakeside/seaside for you to keep on flying (but also anticipating an awesome crash). The currect flight record is 229 feet and was set in Mainz, Germany.
If only Charles Lindbergh could see how easily we can all fly around the world these days. In fairness, he did live until the 1970s and did serve as a consultant with Pan Am, but much has changed in just the few decades since. In 1927, when he completed that history-making nonstop flight from New York to Paris, he won the Orteig Prize and its $25,000 pot. It was a lot of money for the 1920s, but considering four teams trying to win the prize spent $400,000 on their efforts, the money meant nothing.
What really came of all that innovation was a leap for commercial aviation, and now we're at a point where, for $100,000, a person may fly in private jets wherever they want. It's a little program called the Lindbergh Card, recently launched by Air Charter Service to allow movers and shakers with the means, "who have to strike while the iron is hot," to do so without the usual limitations and surcharges of private jet cards.
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Perhaps you've heard of the Blue Ribandthe trophy awarded to the fastest ocean liner to cross the Atlantic? The Titanic was famously trying for the trophy (and the record) when she hit the iceberg and saw those hopes dashed, but the fever over such trophies wasn't limited to the seas. Indeed, the skies really ruled the trophy race with a slew of prizes created in the "golden age" of aviation.
We recently came across a book describing six such trophies, and we did a little looking into their past (and present):
The old trophies
Each is explained above and blow, though most are now inactive. The Harmon Trophy branched off to form four separate trophies (including one just for female aviators), but even those have lapsed. The most active of the trophies are the Collier Trophy (oldest of all having been first awarded in 1911) and the Air Force-awarded Mackay Trophy.
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Just the other day we were talking about the pilots over at American Airlines getting their paws on iPads in the cockpit, and now it looks like the carrier’s flight attendants will also be scoring some electronic doodads.
The plan is to distribute roughly 17,000 of those half-tablet-half-phone Samsung Galaxy Note things. The devices have been used as part of a test, but apparently they've been enough of a success that the decision's been made to roll them out now through 2013. American Airlines wants the cabin crew to utilize the technology to easily access passenger information, and of course they can use the devices to remember if you prefer regular Coke or Diet Coke.
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These are United pilots, but you get the idea
We might have missed something, but we’re pretty sure American Airlines was low on cash and filed for bankruptcy not too long ago. That hasn't stopped them from spending, as they’ve ordered a whole bunch of new planes and even have been giving away trips to meet Michael Bublé.
Their latest purchase? iPads! Other carriers have been pretty quick to adopt the iPad, but now it looks like American Airlines is ready to jump right into the tablet world. The plan is for pilots to shelf all the traditional paper-based materials, as it’s now going to all be on the company-issued iPad.