Boeing’s Dreamliner has been almost a decade in the making, but will it be a game changer? David DeVoss explores the 787′s new developments and reviews everything from cosmetic lighting effects to luxury amenities like bidets to real manufacturing innovations.
Later this month, on October 26, the world’s most modern airplane, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, will take off from Tokyo’s Narita airport for a 4.5-hour flight to Hong Kong. Passengers aboard the All Nippon Airways flight will arrive at the same time and pay close to the same fare they would have if they had flown on a 747. But the aviation industry is betting, praying actually, that passengers will find the Dreamliner experience transcendent.
The Dreamliner is much smaller than the 777, the last totally redesigned aircraft Boeing introduced in 1995. The midsized widebody 787 holds 210 to 290 passengers depending on the configuration, but it’s no metal tube. Passengers in all three service classes will have more room, better air quality, higher humidity and soft natural light thanks to large 19-inch windows that filter the amount of outside light with the touch of a button. The overhead luggage bins are larger and a vaulted 8-ft. tall cathedral ceiling makes the 17-ft. wide cabin feel spacious. But the real game changer is the plane’s interior lighting. Gone is the fluorescent glare that makes most airframes feel claustrophobic. In its place is a “sky blue” lighting system with LED controls that can be adjusted to approximate different times of the day.
Lighting is critical to the new plane’s atmospherics. Boeing engineers discovered that slight adjustments in the shade and strength of light could influence a passenger’s mood, body temperature and sense of well being. Lighting also can enhance the appearance of food, making steak look fresh.
An airplane costing $200 million with a range of up to 8,200 nautical miles ought to have plenty of amenities and passengers aboard any of the 835 Dreamliners Boeing has orders to build should feel pampered. Wider seats in business class recline into beds and 17-in. LCD touch screens offer movies on demand. The roomy bathrooms between first and business class even have bidet toilets.