Dreamliner Dream Finally Comes True for ANA
by Chris Sloan
ALL PHOTOS: CHRIS SLOAN/AIRCHIVE.COM
‘Delivery Day: Here at Last’ blared a headline in the September 25, 2011 issue of The Seattle Times. Indeed, nearly eight years after the original December 16, 2003, ATO (authority to offer) announcement, over four years since the rollout on July 8, 2007 (Airways, October 2007), and almost two years since the December 15, 2009, first flight (Airways, March 2010), this day had finally arrived. At approximately 0800PST, Boeing contractually completed its first hand-over of a 787 Dreamliner—the world’s first all-composite airliner—to launch customer ANA (All Nippon Airways) of Japan.
Putting behind it the 787’s troubled history of production delays, delivery postponements, and cost blow-outs, for the Boeing company September 25 and 26, 2011, were days not for looking back but celebrating the present and looking with hope toward what lies ahead for this ground-breaking marker in the time-line of commercial aviation. Mike Sinnett, VP and chief project engineer of the 787, echoed the thoughts of many within Boeing when he said: “This is the most significant product in Boeing’s history since the launch of the Boeing 707 over fifty years ago, and as giant a leap in technology as (were) the first jets.”
On Sunday September 25, over 150 invited members of the press—including Airways—gathered at Boeing’s Everett plant north of Seattle, Washington, for a full day’s briefing from Boeing, Rolls-Royce, and launch customer ANA. The agenda encompassed a rare factory floor tour, a tour of the second 787 to be delivered to ANA, a lavish dinner to mark the occasion, the handover ceremony in the presence of media, 10,000 employees, and ANA executives, and—finally—the early Tuesday morning fly-away.
Scott Fancher, VP/GM of the 787 program, kicked off the briefing at 0900 by announcing that the title of Boeing 787 no 8 (ZA101/JA801A) had been officially transferred from Boeing Commercial Airplanes to ANA. Fancher then proceeded to show a video of Boeing employees on a recent six-hour test flight of a 787—the first with a full load of pax—during which participants were instructed to overwhelm the various onboard functions such as the in-flight entertainment system (IFE), lighting, electrical system, etc. A memorable quote from the footage, from a Boeing employee, was: “I’ve tried to break it and it’s not breaking.”
Next came a briefing on the airplane’s interior by Kent Craver, Boeing’s regional director passenger satisfaction and revenue; Suzanne Fletcher of the Washington Tourism Alliance; and Blake Emery, director of differentiation strategy at Boeing. Emery said, “It’s not so much about the individual features: the high-arched ceilings, massive stowage bins, LED [light-emitting diode] lighting, lower cabin 6,000 feet [1,800m] pressurization, humidified cabin, ride smoothing technology, or the picture frame windows 65% larger than an Airbus, that will make this the ’plane of choice; it’s the entire package. We are working toward articulated needs—such as size of overhead bins and width of seats—that airlines and passengers ask for, and the unarticulated needs—cabin pressurization and larger windows—that come directly from deep research. People will feel better on this aircraft, even if they don’t know why.”
Emery also revealed that at first, Boeing engineers and marketing didn’t know about everything composites could do when they decided upon this mode of construction for the 787. Eventually, however, the composites, originally chosen for weight, fuel efficiency, and maintenance cost savings, began driving development of new features. Even more surprising was Emery’s disclosure that Boeing’s new passenger experience strategy, as introduced during design and development of the Dreamliner, wasn’t immediately embraced by all involved in the program. He credited legendary Boeing engineer Walt Gillette for his belief that differentiating the experience of the passenger was worth doing. “This was not an easy climb. But in the end, Boeing recognized that this is one of the things that makes the airplane special,” said Emery.
ANA’s Senior Vice President Satoru Fujiki was next on stage. Although he and his company were affected by the three-plus years of delays, the upbeat Fujiki-san showed none of that frustration on this day. The proud and jovial ANA exec pointed out that his airline was the second largest airline in Asia (in terms of revenue), and the 787 was the key toward ANA’s continuing rise to the top tier of world class airlines. He pointed out that the 787-8 is unique in being able to perform multiple missions profitably; for example, long-haul from New York to Tokyo as well as short-haul domestic sectors. He added that a key to the airline’s decision to acquire the 787-8 [in preference to the canceled short-range 787-3] was that when optimized for service from Tokyo-Haneda, particularly on ANA’s new international services, the type promised 20% greater fuel efficiency, and maintenance costs reduced by 30%.
Apart from the first 12 deliveries by April 2012, another eight will enter ANA service over the following 12 months. Deftly deflecting questions from the press about delivery penalties and any compensation from Boeing, Fujiki-san said that he was proud that ANA would be ‘First to Fly’ an aircraft ‘Made with Japan’, as Fuji and Mitsubishi are major partners in the 787’s design and construction.
Bill Boyd of Rolls-Royce, with the designation of civil aerospace VP, Boeing programs, spoke next. Discussing the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, which was designed solely for the Dreamliner, Boyd revealed that the powerplant’s efficiency has improved 15% since it was first launched 20 years ago. He said that the airplane’s unique electrical architecture plays a major rôle in improving efficiency by as much as 3-4% by focusing the engines’ power output purely on propulsion, not bleed air functions such as pressurization, engine starts, and cabin air conditioning. On a related note, it was stated that the much ballyhooed engine swap between manufacturers had not yet been attempted.
The day’s final briefing came from ‘The Three Mikes’: Mike Sinnett, vice president and chief project engineer, 787 program; Mike Carriker, chief pilot of the 787; and Mike Fleming, VP 787 services and support. Carriker described the Dreamliner’s improved ride through turbulence. “Even Boeing can’t arrange turbulence,” he jested with more than a hint of irony, “though we’ve had a lot of it.” In more serious vein, he explained: “We process the computing power of 18 million source lines of code which address different types of motion, load, and gust alleviation systems. One is lateral mode. It senses pressures before actual motion begins. It also adjusts for vertical gusts, (and) that is a substantial improvement. We don’t necessarily smooth out the high-frequency little bumps, but (with) the big bumps you can absolutely feel a difference. When you play back the video and data, you can actually see the flight control surfaces all counteracting this phenomenon.”
When asked about performing a barrel roll in the Dreamliner, Carriker drew more laughs when he said, “I need to keep my job so I don’t roll it though it can do better than the 707”—an allusion to Tex Johnston’s now-legendary barrel roll of the 367-80 (‘Dash 80’) prototype of the KC-135 and 707 family of aircraft.
Discussing the 787’s wiring and data transmission, Mike Sinnett bluntly pointed out, half-joking/half-serious, that “wiring is a bad thing on airplanes. The less of it there is, the better, which leads to reductions in errors and quality problems. This is a result of a date-driven design”. To put this into perspective, the 747 has 150mi (240km) of wiring, the 777 has 110mi (180km), and the A380 328mi (530km); whereas the total length of wiring on the 787 is 50-60mi (80-100km).
Airways took the opportunity to ask whether all this innovation and some of the resulting travails on the Dreamliner has made Boeing more risk-averse. I cited the example of Boeing electing for a more conservative re-engine of the 737 MAX rather than an entirely new aircraft design in that class. My question was met with classic PR ‘stay on message’ spin: “We really feel we design more for what the market wants, and besides we’re here to talk about the 787, not other programs today.”
After nearly six hours of briefings, it was time for a rare photographic up-close tour of the 787 factory floor. Even though it was a Sunday, a crew on the floor was busy attending to the four 787s on the ‘pulsing’ assembly line. In positions 1 to 4 were, respectively, ANA’s 16th airplane, Ethiopian Airlines’s second, United Airlines’s first, and an almost complete powered-up Air India example. We were told that Boeing is currently producing two Dreamliners per month, but that this will increase to a monthly figure of 12 by the end of 2013. Once the new North Charleston, South Carolina, plant comes online, up to 288 aircraft will be built, which means it will take up to 5-6 years to complete the back-ordered 800-plus Dreamliners.
On the floor, we were able to fully appreciate the extent of outsourcing in the manufacture of the Dreamliner, with individual components from Boeing/Spirit in Wichita, Kansas (forward fuselage and flightdeck), mid/aft bodies from Vought/Alenia, now Boeing, in North Charleston, wings from Mitsubishi in Japan, tail cones from Korea, and so on. Indeed, outsourcing was a key factor in 787 program delays, so much so that Boeing purchased the 787 operations of two suppliers—Vought and Alenia—while pledging that components for future new aircraft would not be outsourced to this extent.
The climax of the day was a tour of airplane ln 24 (ZA103/JA802A), the second 787 for delivery to ANA. This Dreamliner is a two-class domestic/Asian regional aircraft with a 2-2-2 business configuration and roomy 2-4-2 economy cabin. Unusually for a domestic 787, ANA had opted for an extra roomy eight-abreast economy configuration instead of the more usual nine-across arrangement. Much has already been made of the 787’s cabin, but only when you step inside can you appreciate the cavernous space (which seems to exceed even that of the wider 777), massive windows with their electrically tinting feature that contribute to a noticeably brighter cabin, the calming LED lighting, the IFE which was functioning, and of course the ‘loo with a view’ (lavatory with window). ANA has even plumped for the economy bar and gorgeous back-lit dome entry, giving further signs that the airline intends to do the Dreamliner proud.
As a ‘thank you’ gesture, Boeing, ANA, and Rolls-Royce teamed up to host an elegant press party at the Dreamliner Gallery (Airways, July 2011), where tours, cocktails, and carving stations were available to the press. Owing to the sizable ANA presence, the cuisine and alcohol (Suntory whiskey, anyone?) were decidedly east meets west.
Day 2, Monday September 26, 2011, was a day more typical of Seattle: rainy and windy. The weather was not conducive to an outdoors hand-over ceremony, but even that could not dampen the festive mood of the over 10,000 people in attendance. On the center stage were the CEO of Boeing, W James (Jim) McNerney, Jr; Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO James (Jim) Albaugh; Scott Fancher; Pat Shanahan, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president and general manager, airplane programs; and ANA President and CEO Shinichiro Ito. Although individual speeches recognized ANA and the Boeing Dream Team, there was no ignoring the elephant in the room: the long delay to get to this date.
First projected to enter service in May 2008, development costs and overruns have been estimated by some at well in excess of $30 billion, pushing breakeven into the 2020s well after the first 1,000 airplanes have been delivered. Whether this is an accurate assessment, only time and balance sheet spin will tell.
Pat Shanahan drew loud laughs when he said, “Breakthroughs are rarely smooth, but I have been waiting for this time for a long time; longer than I would’ve liked.” On a more serious note he compared this moment of the 787 journey to what it must have felt like when Sir Edmund Hillary reached the summit of Mount Everest in May 1953.
The celebration’s high point came when Jim Albaugh signed symbolic documents transferring the 787 from Boeing to ANA, before presenting Ito-san with a ceremonial key to the airplane. “It’s not often that we have the chance to make history, do something big and bold that will change the world in untold ways, and endure long after we are gone,” Albaugh said. “That’s what the 787 Dreamliner is and what ANA and Boeing have done together—build what truly is the first new airplane of the 21st century.”
Responding in both English and Japanese, Ito-san declared: “We are delighted to be taking delivery finally of our first 787. ANA is extremely proud to be the launch customer for the Dreamliner and to have helped Boeing so closely in the development of this aircraft.” The Dreamliner will enable us to offer unrivaled standards of service and comfort to our passengers and will play a key part in ANA’s plans for international expansion.”
Befitting the occasion, there was all the usual and even not-so-usual flair. To the right of the main stage was N787EX (ZA002), the second 787 off the line and first in ANA colors. This airplane not only served as a reminder of the program but was also a very useful shelter from the torrential rains. Employees were able to have their faces digitally photographed, then projected onto huge screens around the venue. The climactic moment came when a mob of 500 Boeing and ANA employees led Dreamliner no 24—the same airplane we had toured the day before—adorned in special ‘ANA 787’ livery, over to where the ceremony was being staged. ANA staff distributed to all in attendance very cool ‘First Flight’ scarves, which doubled as umbrellas and hoodies. Toward the end of the event, Fancher pointed out that there was a photographer on the roof and asked people grouped by departments to raise their scarves in the air and cheer one by one, then everyone was asked to raise them all at once. At this point, the ceremony took on the feel of an NFL playoff game. The events wrapped up in little over an hour, and though the skies didn’t poetically clear, the downpour turned into a drizzle. Perhaps this was a good omen?
On Tuesday, September 27, JA801A took off at 0719PST from Everett as ANA9397 for a 9hr 29min nonstop flight to Haneda, with ANA staff onboard. As the thousands in attendance waved goodbye to the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner delivered to a customer, the exuberance of the previous three days immediately began to be replaced with focus on the tasks ahead as attention turned to the first revenue flights scheduled to begin in exactly a month’s time. Equally significantly, there are the challenges associated with boosting production and dealing with, and fixing, the inevitable teething problems arising from an EIS (entry into service). But the people of Boeing, ANA, and even jaded press personnel couldn’t help feel a certain pride and lump in their collective throats as, after almost ten arduous years, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner lifted away and finally became a commercial reality.
(Airways and the author thank Scott S Lefeber of Boeing and ANA's Nao Gunji for their assistance in producing this story.)
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