She’s big, she’s beautiful, and she’s in Sydney. No, I’m not talking about Dolly Parton, though you’re right, she is too. I’m talking about the Boeing Dreamliner 787 which I was lucky enough to go and check out this morning.It took a lot to get out of bed bright and early this morning after seeing Dolly last night, but the chance to go and check out the very first Dreamliner was enough to do it.As plane spotters will know, it’s the first time a 787 has made it to Australia, and this isn’t just any Dreamliner. This is the test aircraft that was used for the first Dreamliner flight.
Qantas and Jetstar have 50 of the Dreamliners on order, with the first expected to be flying for the group in mid 2013. Thanks to a three year delay in deliveries, that’s a bit later than first hoped, but the way time flies these days I’m sure we’ll be stepping aboard one before we know it.
There was a lot to take in about how clever this new aircraft is, but one thing I was fascinated by was the engines. They’re apparently 20 per cent more fuel efficient than the ones most of us fly around with these days, and while I certainly couldn’t tell that by looking at them, I did think they were quite beautiful.I loved how powerful they looked, and the cracked egg styling. Then again, cracks aren’t the sort of thing you usually want to associate with your plane’s engine, so maybe I should look at it more like Batman’s car instead?
As well as being 20 per cent more fuel efficient, I’m told the Dreamliners are also 30 per cent more efficient to maintain. So there are some savings to be had when you’re keeping them in the air.
Mind you, they do cost a pretty penny to get in the first place. The Dreamliners’ listing prices start at US $194 million, and go up depending on which one you’re after. Though I’m told airlines don’t pay the full price. Which makes me wonder who does?
After the speeches there was a chance to do what we were itching to do… get on board. And after a bit of a wait in the queue I was up the stairs and into my first Dreamliner. But wait, what’s this?
Sure, I’d been told it was a test aircraft, but I still wasn’t expecting the inside to be quite like this. For some silly reason I thought it was going to be decked out to show what one could look like… as in, “here’s where we’ll have the bar, and the chill out area, and this is where first class will be…”
You know, that aircraft of the future we keep seeing mock ups of, where people can work out in a gym in the sky with all that spare room. And then of course when it comes time to get on one, all of those extra recreation areas are just packed with more seats.
Instead this 787 is full of data collecting equipment. Which makes a lot more sense. And was actually really fun to see. Especially when I got to understand a bit more about it, such as the way these strange black barrels are full of water which can be moved around, so they can test that she still flies the way she should when there’s extra weight in various parts of the plane.
I have to admit, this morning ZA001 didn’t mean anything to me. But now I feel honoured to have been able to step aboard such an important part of Boeing history.
Of course, now I want to fly on her. But with so few seats and so many people who want to do the same, I think it could be a long wait.
Looking out the window it was clear that there was still a fair queue to get on and check the Dreamliner out. Which is when I noticed someone sneaking in through the exit to jump the queue.
But considering he’s the one who’s buying them, I was okay with Alan Joyce queue jumping and sitting in the cockpit for a photo opp. It seemed only fair.
After Mr Joyce left the cockpit, it was my turn to have a go. And as I sat amongst that impressive display of buttons I’ll never know how to use, once again all I could think of was how much fun it would be to fly in this thing! I chatted to the captain about how she handles, and he told me the Dreamliner is a wonderful thing to fly. Apparently she does what she’s told when she’s told. Which is a good thing in a plane. And a horse.
Of course, before leaving I had to have the obligatory photo in the cockpit. If only I could have figured out how to throw her in reverse and get her out of the hangar.
There are apparently a number of advantages for passengers on board a Dreamliner, including the way people feel more refreshed after a flight thanks to the 787 being able to fly at 6000ft, which is 2000ft lower than other commercial aircraft, and so better for the pressure on our bloodstream.
I’ll have to road test that one in the future. But one thing I did get to see with my own eyes and that I really liked is the new windows. Not only are they bigger, and will be in a better position to be seen by more seats… but they don’t have shutters.
Instead, you press a button if you want them to go darker, and they tint themselves. So you can decide to have it completely clear, completely dark, or maybe just a touch of tint. Nice one.
After playing with the window a bit longer, and then doing another lap of the first Dreamliner, it was time to head back to real life, and start counting the months until mid 2013.
And to have fun dreaming about where my first Dreamliner flight will take me!
Jetstar fly from Melbourne to Tokyo (Japan) with the Dreamliner 787. When you’re on the ground in Japan you can get unlimited travel on the Japan Railways Network using your JR Pass. You can purchase your Japan Rail Pass in Australia here.
Love your planes? You may also want to check out what it’s really like to fly in Singapore Airlines Suites, my piece about British Airways’ new Boeings for the Australia to UK route, or perhaps check out what happened when Orlando Bloom came to Sydney for British Airways.