Tuesday, May 15, 2012

American Airlines & DFW welcome the Boeing Dreamliner Test Plane

Boeing 787 Dreamliner test plane heads to American Airlines'
Hangar 15 for the May 11 press conference.

Last Friday, Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner test plane landed at Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport (DFW) to “Wow” a group of journalists and American Airlines employees.

American Airlines is reinvigorating its brand with new, more fuel efficient airplanes including Boeing 777-300ERs, 737-800s along with the 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft as it reorganizes and streamlines its business in Bankruptcy Court. American’s fleet renewal includes retrofitting some of its Boeing 738-800s and its 757s.  The airline says that over the next five years this fleet renewal will give American Airlines the youngest fleet of any major U.S. carrier. 

In 2008, American Airlines ordered 42 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.  The first 787-9 Dreamliner is due at the end of 2014.  The Boeing Dreamliner is a long haul aircraft (routes haven't been determined yet). This year and next American will take delivery of 10 Boeing 777-300ERs, and it continues to receive the fuel-efficient 737-800 airplanes that will replace American’s MD-80 fleet.

In May 2011, American began receiving new 737-800s with the Boeing Sky Interior that adds LED lighting and a roomier interior with larger overhead bins for carry-on luggage.  I was a bit disappointed to see that the coach seats looked the same as on current 737-800s, and there is no back of seat entertainment.

A new 737-800 landed on Friday too.  Although this plane features LED lighting,
it wasn't turned on when I checked out the plane. Notice the additional head room.

In 2013, American expects to begin receiving 130 current generation Airbus 319 and 321 aircraft.  In 2017, American is set to begin receiving Airbus planes with the  “Neo” next- generation engine technology.

Highlights of the press conference and Dreamliner tour

American Airlines CEO, Tom Horton welcomed employees and media to the press conference saying: “This good looking airplane is going to look a lot better in silver.”  Welcoming the Dreamliner to DFW was aimed at showing what “the new American looks like.”

American Airlines CEO, Tom Horton

During a tour of the test plane, 787 Brand Manager, Katherine Overby said that the plane has state of the art engine technology and reduced maintenance features.  Last December, the Dreamliner set the speed and distance record by flying around the World in 42 hours (22 hours from Seattle to Dhaka, Bangladash and 20 hours from Dhaka back to Seattle). 

Although the test Dreamliner that visited DFW had a Rolls Royce engine, Vice President of Sales for Boeing North America, John Wojick, says that the Dreamliners American has ordered will have General Electric engines.  All the 787 engines are tested to withstand bird strikes.  I asked how airplane engines are tested to “ingest birds” and he said that frozen chickens are used.

John Wojick, V.P. Sales for Boeing North America in the Dreamliner's economy cabin

Wojick says that ANA and Japan Airlines currently have the 11 Boeing Dreamliners currently in service.  Since Continental was the first U.S. carrier to order a Dreamliner back in 2007, I asked when United (which completed its merger with Continental earlier this year) should get its first 787, and Wojick anticipates it will be delivered sometime this Fall.

Business class seats on the test plane.  Six different vendors
supply seats for the Dreamliner, so American's may look a bit different.

American employees (L to R) Jim Lorentsen and Rick Briggs
check out Biz class.  The test plane didn't display First Class,
but both Business and First will have seats that fully recline.

Brooke and Paige (L to R), whose Dad works for
American Airlines, appear very comfy in Biz class     

Wojick loves the 787’s sleek wing and raked wing tip. Overby loves the fact the airplane improves passenger comfort and that the windows are up higher to allow passengers to see the horizon.  

Sleek wing of the Dreamliner

Overby highlighted some of the window features for me in this  video tour.

My favorite features were the LED lighting, the window tint adjustments and the large screens on the back of seat entertainment modules on all the coach seats.  

Signs of Eco-Friendliness – quieter and more fuel efficient

The Dreamliner burns approximately 20% less fuel than similarly sized aircraft due to its new engines, increased use of lightweight composite materials, more-efficient systems applications and modern aerodynamics.  Reducing fuel consumption lowers the aircraft’s carbon emissions and the engines of the Dreamliner have been designed to also emit less nitrogen oxide (NOx), which further reduces the plane’s environmental impact.  And Boeing reports that the noise footprint of the 787 Dreamliner is 60% smaller than similarly sized planes currently flying our environmentally challenged skies.

Captain Randy Neville showed off the cockpit of the Boeing Test Dreamliner.

On my flight home from Dallas, I flew on an older American 737.  We were packed in the plane like sardines and the shade for my window was cracked and difficult to raise or lower.  The sooner  American Airlines gets new planes, the better flying should be for passengers.  And the Boeing Dreamliner with its fuel efficiency and smaller carbon footprint is this eco-nut's dream airplane.

This was the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner to land at DFW

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