Innovations that make the 787 different

When people in the aviation industry have talked about the 787 over the past few years, they’ve focused on one thing: delays.

Lost in the haze of setbacks and disappointments with Boeing’s new aircraft has been the Dreamliner’s innovation. Both passengers and airlines reap the benefits of new advances offered on the Dreamliner.

Cabin pressure: Ever walk off a plane after sleeping through the flight and still feel more tired than when you got on the aircraft? That groggy, beat-down feeling is something Boeing worked to combat on the 787. Thanks to its composite material, the 787 enjoys the cabin pressure of a lower altitude — 6,000 feet, compared to as high as 8,000 feet for similar aircraft. The air inside the 787 will be less dry, due to a new filtration system used in the Dreamliner. What that means to passengers: you won’t feel so dehydrated or tired when your flight is over.

Smoother ride: Skittish passengers or those with a weak stomach will welcome Boeing’s anti-turbulence device on the 787. Sensors laid out across the aircraft send warnings of turbulence and allow the aircraft to compensate for it. While 787 passengers still will see a few bumps along the way, they’ll enjoy a smoother ride than on comparable airplanes.

Less maintenance: Every time a carrier has to pull an airliner out of service, it means cash out of their pockets. Sure, airlines have extra aircraft to pick up the slack. But what if they didn’t have to own as many because their fleet of aircraft required less maintenance? The Dreamliner is designed to need fewer hours out of service than similarly sized aircraft. Part of that is due to the materials that make up the 787. The composite barrel structure of a 787 requires fewer fasteners and joints – fewer places to erode and break down. The 787’s engine manufacturers also eliminated more parts, while increasing engine efficiency, allowing for less maintenance.

Bigger windows: As part of Boeing’s overhaul of the inside of an aircraft, the company added larger windows to improve the flying experience for passengers. The windows are 3 inches taller than those in a Boeing 767, the company’s most comparably sized aircraft. Passengers no longer have to fiddle with a drop-down shade; instead they use a button to dim the window.

Pilot training: Boeing has predicted a high demand for pilots over the coming decade. That means airlines are loath to free up their pilots’ time to train on how to operate a new aircraft. The similarities between Boeing’s 777 and 787 have sliced training time to five days for pilots already flying 777s. But Boeing also developed a pilot training system that allows pilots to do some training online before a short in-person training session either in Seattle or at one of Boeing’s worldwide training locations.

Engine swapping: With the 787, Boeing made it easier to switch between the two engines offered on the Dreamliner. Typically, an airline is stuck with the original engine manufacturer, which is especially challenging for aircraft leasing companies that lease jets to different airlines. Each airline has mechanics with expertise in working with certain engine manufacturers’ products. Having to hire or train mechanics on other products is an expense that airlines want to avoid. However, on the 787, if a leasing company takes back a Dreamliner with GE engines from one airline, it can lease that same jet to another airline with Rolls-Royce engines.

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