Dubai Airshow 2011

Boeing's Dreamliner Debuts in Middle East at Airshow


As the eternal battle to secure aircraft orders continues, Boeing’s newest product, the 787 Dreamliner, landed in the United Arab Emirates for the 2011 round of the Dubai Airshow. It is the first time the plane is shown to the Middle East public with a readied mockup interior.

In this hand hout computer-generated image provided by Boeing shows the company's new series Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Wednesday, April; 27, 2005. A senior Boeing Co. official on Wednesday brushed off the threat of European rival Airbus SAS's "superjumbo," saying orders for Boeing's smaller, more fuel-efficient Dreamliner were robust. (AP Photo/Boeing) ** EDITORIAL USE ONLY **

For a real encounter with the plane that went into service for ANA just under three weeks ago, its curvy design and trademark sky-blue factory paintwork are quick to stand out on the tarmac.

This is a wide-body aircraft designed to carry up to 290 passengers on routes up to 8,500 nautical miles (15,750 kilometers), enough for a Dubai to Melbourne or Doha to Seattle route. Qatar Airways will be the first Middle East carrier to take delivery of the 787 Dreamliner, slated for the first half of 2012.

The two large turbofan engines, this set developed by Rolls-Royce, feature salient noise-reducing chevrons attached to their nacelles. They also offer improvements on several other fronts, including fuel burn and emissions. But there’s more: The entire plane is mostly composed of advanced composite materials rather than traditional aluminum, giving it a weight advantage and hence additional fuel efficiency. In a time where higher oil prices are often a drag on the profitability of many airlines around the world, the 20 percent fuel saving claimed by Boeing in comparison to similarly sized aircraft has been a critical sales pitch.

The first impression of the interior of the plane is the unique headroom. The ceiling is set much higher, giving the cabin environment a much roomier feel. Seats in the economy class are comfortable, even for those in the six foot six category of heights. To reach a verdict on the business class experience would be a bit of a stretch though, as the outfit details are determined by the airlines actually buying the aircraft.

Boeing says it has worked with several universities to incorporate design enhancements that facilitate a more comfortable journey. One example are the windows, among the largest in the industry, and the electronic curtains, which dim automatically by the press of button. It takes a few seconds though for the desired setting to take effect.

Meanwhile the cabin pressure has been modified to simulate a lower altitude to allow the blood to absorb more oxygen. It’s a factoid that sounds great, but hard to notice when not on a long-distance flight. The 787-8 model of the plane has a list price $193.5 million.

Three years of delays due to supply chain difficulties have pushed some airlines to cancel their orders for the 787 Dreamliner. Despite suffering a net loss of 26 orders so far this year (as of Nov. 8), the company still has a backlog of about 800 planes, 131 of which are from customers in the Middle East.