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Some 250 Boeing employees recently got the rare opportunity to fly on a new 787 Dreamliner before its commercial debut. And they didn't have to pay for the flight. The only catch: bring several electronic gadgets on board and get ready to work your fingers.
It was a special test flight where Boeing engineers were trying to overwhelm the state-of-the art in-flight entertainment system. Over the course of the 7-hour flight, the employees took part in a series of group tests, such as turning on a movie at the same time, rewinding it or playing a game at the same time.
In between, they were encouraged to literally push the system to the limits.
"I was pushing as many buttons as I could find." said Tina Marie, one of the test participants.
"I tried to break it and it wasn't breaking," said participant Dennis Mayfield. "I played three or four different games, started four or five movies and stopped them."
"I tried to break it and it wasn't breaking." Dennis Mayfield, test participant
"We were testing for the worst case," said Sean Sullivan, manager of the 787 cabin services system team. "We wanted the passengers to do things that you would never have in a commercial flight."
The 787 Dreamliner is a super-efficient airplane made largely of light-weight carbon composites. The all-new design comes with improvements to the passenger experience, from an interior environment with higher humidity to increased comfort and convenience.
To further tax the system, all the participants plugged their own electronic devices into the power and USB outlets. It was a recognition that these days airlines like launch customer ANA (All Nippon Airways) are catering to passengers who want to use multiple gadgets during a flight.
"I'm doing everything," said participant Brooke Perisho, who was sorting email on her laptop while her cell phone charged and a movie played on her in-flight entertainment console. "If you like to multi-task then it's perfect."
"We were testing for the worst case ... doing things that you would never have in a commercial flight." Sean Sullivan, 787 cabin services system manager
"We'd like to provide the IFE capability that we usually have in our house. We like to provide the same type of capability in the airplane as well," said Kinichiro Suetsugu, one of several ANA employees who were on board the flight.
From the 787's new dimmable windows to the colorful LED lights in the ceiling to the reclining business class seats, engineers tested every major cabin feature to make sure it didn't affect the 787's in-flight entertainment.
Sullivan said after all the test conditions were completed, the team was delighted to see the system performed exactly as it was designed to do.
The Boeing employees and ANA guests were impressed as well.
"I'm very happy today to see IFE have the capability to support this heavy usage condition," said Suetsugu.
"It's the best airplane I've ever flown in. It's really, really nice," said Mayfield. "It really has become the dream come true."