Randy's Journal: Archives

19 April 2005

The game changer

Wow. That's about all I can say. Wow.

Well, okay, there are a couple of other things I can say about the excitement around the world for the new 787 Dreamliner. Our newest launch customer is Korean Air Lines, with orders for 10 Dreamliners, and options for an additional 10.

Korean Air Lines' new Dreamliner photo

Korean Air Lines' new Dreamliner.

Clearly the market is speaking here, demonstrating the trend for efficient, mid-sized, long-range airplanes. And there's no doubt the passenger comfort and breakthrough technology of the 787 is going to enhance Korean Air's already top reputation as a regional and long-haul carrier.

And I just have to observe something about the momentum that's building for the Dreamliner. Back on December 10th, Airbus offered the A350. They have since announced only one airline customer order for 10 airplanes. But just since that same date, the 787 family has added 12 new airline customers with 121 orders and commitments.

Which brings me back to what I started talking about here a while ago - why the A350 falls short of the 787.

That topic really fired up some comments, some of them pretty hot. Such as:

Ignoring reality might be dangerous to your economy!
Rolf S.

Well, I happen to think we're firmly rooted in reality. And the reality of what I was getting at in the earlier post is that there's no comparison when you put these two airplanes head-to-head.

First, understand that the 787 is a breakthrough airplane, a "game changer." It's a complete set of new technologies.

Breakthrough technology 787 vs. A350

The 787 brings together, in an all-new integrated design, the latest advances in aerodynamics, and breakthrough efficiencies in structures, systems, and engines. Those highly efficient and quiet engines have been designed so that the power systems are interchangeable between engine manufacturers - a totally new concept.

This is a commercial airplane with an all-composite fuselage, wing, and tail. Another first.

And by using composites we're reducing the weight of the 787. That leads to much better fuel efficiency and lower operating costs.

Composite material, as compared to metal, is more durable. It doesn't corrode. It has better fatigue characteristics. These qualities also enhance the passenger experience, which I'll get to in a moment.

carbon-fiber composite fuselage section photo

Earlier this year we unveiled the first carbon-fiber composite fuselage section, or "barrel." By building the sections as full barrels with integrated stringers - the supports that run through the structure - we reduce parts, improving aerodynamics and fuel efficiency.

So, how does the A350 stack up?

Aerodynamically, the A350, as proposed by Airbus, would incorporate some improvements. But it's still based on the A330, an airplane designed 15 years ago. And while the A350 would use the 787 engines, they'll be adapted to the A330 platform, so you won't get the efficiency of a totally integrated design.

But the biggest difference is in the A350's structure. It's a heavier airplane, with higher fuel consumption, and higher operating costs than the 787. And the systems being used in the A350, again, like the A330, were designed 15 years ago.

All in all, a compromise. And because this is basically an A330 derivative, you're going to get the A330 passenger experience, based on a 1970s design cross section.

The 787 interior mock-up photo

The 787 mock-up in Seattle gives a view of the cool mood lighting on the Dreamliner.

On the other hand, from your first moment on board the 787 you'll notice a difference - open space designed in a way you may never have seen before.

The mood lighting in the cabin is pretty cool, too. It can change intensity and color with the time of day. Even the huge luggage bins are going to make your experience more comfortable. You'll never have to stress out about overhead space for your stuff.

And remember the composite material I talked about? It's a big part of why we think you're going to love flying on the 787. Using composites means we can put in the largest passenger windows on a commercial airplane. We can also lower the cabin altitude and increase the humidity in the cabin to a more comfortable level.

That all adds up to getting where you're going feeling relaxed and refreshed.

And what's the comfort level on the A350/A330? Same old, same old.

So, let's get back to reality here. Which would you choose to fly?