The 787 will be lean and green

EVERETT – The Boeing Co. is taking great pains to make sure its new airplane will be “green and clean” as it flies through the sky, the executive in charge of 787 development said Thursday.

“A huge focus in this program is making this an environmentally friendly airplane,” Boeing vice president Mike Bair said.

Bair spoke to the Cascade Land Conservancy, which met to give its annual Snohomish County conservation awards.

State Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish, and Terry Williams, commissioner of natural resources for the Tulalip Tribes, both received Phil and Laura Zalesky lifetime achievement awards.

Bair and other speakers stressed that economic growth can be compatible with the environment.

“They go hand in hand,” said Land Conservancy president Gene Duvernoy. “You can’t get one without the other.”

“You know you’re on to something,” added John Howell, the group’s chairman, “when the world’s largest aircraft maker comes to speak at a conservation breakfast.”

Bair said the new 787 will be easier on the environment in several ways:

* It will burn less fuel, leading to less air pollution, he said. “Some of the emissions will be 50 percent lower than today’s best.”

* The plane’s main structures will be built from composites, which can be produced using less than 10 percent of the electricity needed to make comparable parts from aluminum.

* Some of the processes used to make aluminum jet parts require the metal to be dipped in “really interesting chemicals,” which won’t be used in making the 787’s composite parts.

* And at the end of the jet’s life span, it will be “a very simple thing” to dispose of the 787’s composite pieces, he said. They could be ground up and reused for things such as roadbeds. Aircraft metal, on the other hand, is not so easy to recycle, Bair said, because the aluminum alloys used in jets contain elements that are “not the sort of things you want in your beer cans.”

After the speech, Bair said Boeing is continuing to study a larger version of the 787, which has been requested by some airlines, notably Emirates, which in November ordered 42 777s but has yet to buy any 787s.

“If the market looks like it’s there,” he said, “we can always do it.”

Bair expressed confidence in Boeing’s chances of landing an order of up to 100 jets from Australian airline Qantas. The airline has delayed its decision, which had been expected this week.

“They wanted to take some more time,” he said. “That’s fine.”

Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or

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