Boeing launched the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner passenger aircraft in 2003. The 787 family of aircraft, in the 200 to 300-seat class, will carry passengers non-stop on routes between 6,500km and 16,000km at speeds up to Mach 0.85.

The aircraft is highly fuel-efficient and offers a lower cost of travel in terms of seat cost per mile as well, with the ability to fly directly to smaller regional airports instead of larger airports where passengers proceed to transfer flights to regional destinations.

First Dreamliner production aircraft

Aircraft assembly began in June 2006 and final assembly in May 2007. The first aircraft was rolled out in July 2007 and the first flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner took off from Paine Field in Everett, Washington, on 15 December 2009.

The 787 test program consisted of six aircraft, titled ZA001 to ZA006. ZA001 was Boeing’s first test Dreamliner aircraft and was used for the maiden flight. It was decommissioned as a test aircraft in December 2011. ZA002 joined the Dreamliner test program in December 2009. ZA004 beat ZA003 to action by a month, they joined the test program in February and March 2010 respectively.

ZA005, the first Dreamliner to have General Electric GEnx engines rather than the Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines, made it’s first flight and entered the test program in June 2010.

On 18 July 2010, the Dreamliner was showcased at the UK’s Farnborough International Airshow 2010.

The 787-9 stretched variant is due to enter service in late 2013.

On 24 February 2011 the Dreamliner completed 1,000 hours of flight testing.

Boeing Dreamliner variations

The Dreamliner aircraft is being designed in three versions, the baseline version, a short-range and a stretched version.

The baseline version, the 787-8, has a maximum take-off weight of 219,540kg. The aircraft typically accommodates 220 passengers in a three-class cabin configuration. The length is 57m and the wingspan is 60m, while the height is 17m. The range is between 14,200 and 15,200km and the cruise speed is Mach 0.85. The total cargo volume of the 787-8 is 4,400ft³.

The 787-3 short-range version is the same length and height as the 787 but has a shorter wingspan (52m). The maximum take-off weight is 165,100kg and the range has been reduced to between 4,650km and 5,650km. The aircraft can carry 290 to 330 passengers in two classes. The aircraft also has the capacity to carry 4,400ft³ of cargo.

The stretched version, 787-9, has the same wingspan and height as the standard 787 but the length is increased to 63m.

The aircraft typically carries 259 passengers in a three-class cabin layout. The range is 14,800km to 15,750km and the maximum take-off weight is 244,940kg. The total cargo volume of the aircraft is 5,400ft³.

In October 2006, Boeing business jets launched a VIP version of the 787, with an order for four aircraft placed by undisclosed customers.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner design features

The Boeing Dreamliner aircraft is of conventional design with low sweptback wings and two underwing pylon mounted engines. The design has replaced the Sonic Cruiser programme and incorporates some of the advanced design features developed while examining the Sonic Cruiser concept. The design includes increased use of lightweight and high durability composites and advanced aluminium alloys.

The low sweptback wings have raked wingtips. Carbon fibre and epoxy composites and titanium graphite laminate is used in the construction of the wings.

The major structural work is being shared by principal industrial partners in USA, Japan and Europe.

Boeing is responsible for about 33% of the production, with the flight deck and fuselage being manufactured at Wichita, the wings and the fuselage fairings at Winnipeg, Canada, the fin at Frederickson and the moving leading and trailing edges of the wings at Tulsa and Boeing Australia. Japan’s Fuji Heavy Industries manufactures the centre wing box and installs the wells.

Kawasaki Heavy Industries is responsible for the manufacture of the mid forward section of the fuselage, the fixed section of the wings and the landing gear well. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries manufactures the wing box. The all-composite nose section is being built by Spirit Aerosystems of Wichita.

A joint venture company, Global Aeronautica, set up by Vought Aircraft Industries and Alenia Aeronautica, is responsible for the manufacture of the mid section and rear section of the fuselage including the tailplane, representing a 26% share of production which will be based at Charleston, South Carolina. The French company Latecoere supplies the passenger doors. Goodrich provides the nacelles and thrust reverser.

The fuselage cross-section of 5.74m is compatible with standard LD3 containers. The cargo revenue capacity will increase by 40% to 60% compared with current airliners.

Dreamliner flight deck

Kaiser Electroprecision provides the pilot controls, which is similar in function to those of the Boeing 777.

Rockwell Collins was selected to supply display, communication and situational awareness systems. There are five 12in×9.1in displays and dual flight dynamics head up displays. Thales supplies the integrated standby flight display.

Communication systems include advanced VHF and satellite communication radios. Situational awareness systems include terrain awareness warning systems, weather radar and traffic alert and collision avoidance systems (TCAS) and an airport moving map for safer ground taxi operations.

Honeywell, of Phoenix, Arizona, was selected to provide the flight control electronics, autopilot and the navigation package, which include the flight management function, inertial reference system, air data system and a multimode receiver global positioning system.

Honeywell also supplies the crew information system / maintenance system (CIS/MS) which provides information on the general health of major aircraft systems.

The 787 avionics are based on open systems architecture. Smiths Aerospace UK was selected to supply the common core system (CCS). This will replace traditional dedicated signal wiring with remote data concentrators. The concentrators link sensors and effectors to a distributed computing resource through a dedicated communications network. This contributes significantly to the weight reduction.

Astronautics Corp. provided the dual electronic flight bag (EFB), which contains all the documentation required by the pilot in digital format.

787 cabin

The aircraft cabin gives a very comfortable environment with higher humidity, wider aisles and seats and larger (48cm×28cm) windows. The Boeing Interiors Responsibility Center oversaw development and suppliers for the 787 new concept interior.

The current configuration of the interior features repeated sweeping arches, dynamic lighting and electronic window shades whose transparency passengers can change during the flight. Diehl Luftfahrt Elektronik provides the cabin lighting, which includes a ‘simulated sky’ ceiling effect produced by arrays of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) which can change in colour and brightness.

The 787 has larger centre-mounted overhead luggage bins that descend for easy loading and then pivot upward.

The aircraft is powered by high-bypass 10:1 ratio, extremely quiet engines. The fuel efficiency of the engines contributes up to 8% of the increased efficiency of the aircraft.

Boeing 787 engines

Boeing has selected two engine types, the General Electric GENX and the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, each type developing 55,000lb to 70,000lb thrust.

Each of the three planned 787 models uses the same engines. Both engines fit to a standard engine interface allowing interchangeability. The traditional bleed air heating and de-icing systems have been eliminated in favour of electrical systems.

The General Electric GENX (GE next generation) engine is a derivative of the GE90 engine and uses composite fan blades, a high-pressure ration compressor and a single annular combustor where the compressed air and fuel are mixed, to give very low level of emissions. Ishikawajima-Harima Heavy Industries (IHI) and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) of Japan, Volvo-Aero of Sweden, Techspace Aero of Belgium and Avio of Italy participate in the development. The GENX engine was certified in March 2008.

The Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 is a new ultra-high-thrust variant of the Trent family and uses a three-shaft layout.

Goodrich of Charlotte NC has been chosen to provide the fuel-quantity indicating system and fuel management software.

Dreamliner landing gear

Messier-Dowty of Velizy, France, was selected to supply the main and nose landing gear. The company is working with Boeing during the joint definition phase defining the landing gear and aircraft interface before the firm aircraft configuration is decided in 2005. Smiths Aerospace provides the landing gear actuation systems.

The electric braking system, supplied by Goodrich and Messier-Bugatti, is comprised of the aircraft wheels, electro-mechanically actuated carbon brakes and electro-mechanical actuator controllers. The system provides advantages over hydraulic brakes of digital control and monitoring, reduced weight and high reliability. The absence of hydraulic brake fluid avoids the risk of leaks and possible fire hazards.


Boeing plans to acquire the business and operations of Vought Aircraft Industries at its South Carolina facility. The company performs fabrication and assembly of structures and systems installation of 787 aft fuselage sections.

787 orders and deliveries

The launch order for 50 7E7 aircraft placed by All Nippon Airways (ANA) was announced in April 2004 and is the largest launch order for a Boeing commercial jet. The 50 7E7 aircraft deal has a list price value of $6bn. The aircraft was given its 787 designation in January 2005.

In September 2007, BA announced an order for 24 Boeing 787s, to be delivered between 2010 and 2014. The group also has the option to buy a further 18 Dreamliners from Boeing.

As of November 2011, Boeing has 821 orders from 55 customers around the world. The first aircraft was delivered to All Nippon Airways, a Japanese air carrier, in September 2011.

Customers include: Air New Zealand (787-9, eight), British Airways (24), Qatar Airways (30 plus 30 options), First Choice Airways (12), Continental (25), Japan Airlines (787-3 13, 787-8 22), Vietnam Airlines (four), Chinese Airlines (60), Icelandair (four), Ethiopian Airlines (ten), Korean Airlines (ten plus ten options), Northwest Airlines (18 plus 50 options), Air Canada (37 plus 23 options), Air India (27), Royal Air Maroc (four), LOT (seven), China Southern (ten), ILFC (73 787-8, one 787-9), Qantas (45 plus 20 options), Kenya Airways (nine), Singapore Airlines (787-9, 20 plus 20 options), Air Pacific (787-9, five plus three options), Monarch Airlines (787-8, six plus four options), Virgin Atlantic (15 787-9 plus eight options), Aeroflot (787-8, 22), Gulf Air (16) and Sultanate of Oman (six).

In October 2008, American Airlines announced the intention to acquire 42 (plus 58 options) 787-9 aircraft, for delivery between 2012 and 2018. An additional 25 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft were ordered by United Airlines in December 2009, as replacements for its twin-aisle fleet. The aircraft will be delivered from 2016 to 2019.