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Feature Story

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Boeing/Bernard Choi

About 300 employees of the newly combined Continental and United Airlines visit the Boeing 787 Dreamliner during the airplane's brief stop in Houston, Texas. Continental and United will be the first U.S. airline to fly the 787.

Video: Boeing 787 meets some future owners

Like many in the aviation industry, Jack Terrell is excited to see the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner in action.

Jack Terrell

Boeing/Bernard Choi

Continental Airlines maintenance supervisor Jack Terrell says he is looking forward to the opportunity to work on the "state-of-the-art" Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Posters of the groundbreaking airplane - from its factory debut to its inaugural flight - adorn the Continental Airlines maintenance supervisor's office.

"Everybody's excited about it. It's a new way of thinking, new technology," said Terrell.

Last Thursday, Terrell didn't have to rely on posters, he just had to look outside his window. The 5th Boeing 787 Dreamliner, returning from flight tests down in Bolivia, stopped at Continental's main hub at Houston Intercontinental Airport to meet the people who will help the newly combined Continental and United Airlines become the first U.S. carrier to fly the all-new airplane.

"We banked our future on the aircraft...we're big believers of the 787." Ron Baur, Continental Airlines Vice President of Fleet Management.

"It looks like I hoped it would, very state of the art, it looks fast," Terrell said.

787

Boeing/Bernard Choi

ZA005, the fifth 787 Dreamliner, made a brief stop at Houston Intercontinental Airport after weeks of flight testing in La Paz, Bolivia. The 787, which uses strong, light-weight carbon composites, will use 20% less fuel than the airplanes it replaces.

Terrell and some 300 employees - pilots, flight attendants, dispatchers and the like - took the opportunity to tour the test airplane, including the advanced flight deck with its suite of digital navigation tools like the dual head-up display.

"It's our first glimpse. We're anxious to get it and finally getting to see the real thing is excellent," said Giff Beuker, a cabin safety manager.

"These are the types of airplanes that we can go from Houston to Auckland for flights that we've never done before, for stage lengths that we've never seen before, said chief dispatcher Jeffrey Devore, who brought his three-year-old son to "see the future of flying."

"We're anxious to get it and finally getting to see the real thing is excellent." Giff Beuker, Continental Airlines cabin safety manager.

The 787-8 Dreamliner will carry 210 - 250 passengers on routes of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles (14,200 to 15,200 kilometers).

787

Boeing/Bernard Choi

Employees of the newly combined Continental and United Airlines snap pictures of the fifth 787 Dreamliner during a stopover in Houston, Texas.

Many employees walked around the jetliner, snapping photos and touching the carbon-composite skin. That's the light-weight material that helps the 787 fly farther and use 20% less fuel. It's why Continental ordered 25 of the Dreamliners.

"We banked our future on the aircraft," said Ron Baur, vice president of Fleet Management. "We're big believers of the 787, flying long-length markets. One of the first routes we'll fly is Houston to Auckland and to me this is the poster child for that route."

After a few hours on the ground, the Dreamliner had to depart to return to Seattle for more flight tests. Boeing is intent on wrapping up certification as soon as possible so it can start delivering 787s to great carriers like Continental and United.

"We're going to have the most fun with it," said Terrell. "We'll be in it, on it, around it, taking it apart and putting it back together."