The first 787 Dreamliner, helping aviation dreams take flight

October 19, 2018 in Commercial

A flip of the switch, and the cavernous space goes from almost total darkness to dramatic light. And with a shout of “Yoisho!” 400 special guests help to christen the opening of the new Flight of Dreams exhibit in Nagoya, Japan.

The very first 787 Dreamliner test airplane – known as ZA001 – made its last official flight in June 2015. But the airplane’s new mission is to inspire curiosity and interest in aviation, as the centerpiece of this brand new, permanent exhibition.

The facility is the first of its kind in the world. Not only was it built especially to showcase the airplane, but it also was designed in celebration of (and thanks to) a multitude of special partnerships and close relationships between Boeing and Japan, the 787 airplane family and the Greater Nagoya region – where much of the airframe structure is made – as well as between Nagoya and Seattle.

When the first test airplane of the 787 Program first took to the skies in December 2009, it was an incredibly proud moment for teams across Boeing. By that time, the airplane had become a symbol of the hopes and dreams of Boeing’s future. It was also a symbol of opportunity for many airline customers around the world, who had placed their confidence in the airplane and the unique flying experience it would mean for their customers. And the airplane’s innovative design – with its carbon fiber fuselage – was a symbol of the future of aviation and aviation manufacturing.

The program was, and is, a model of international collaboration.  In particular, it relies on components from Boeing’s aerospace partners in Japan. Thirty-five percent of the airframe structure comes from Japanese suppliers and partners – more than any other country in the world outside the United States. Many of them are based in the central region of Japan near Nagoya, which is also notable as a critical hub for operations within the global 787 Dreamlifter network.

It was Japanese airline customers ANA and JAL who first helped to introduce the Dreamliner to the world, and combined they have more than 100 Dreamliners in service – more than any other country.

So for all these reasons and more, Boeing donated ZA001 to Centrair and the Flight of Dreams, in the hope that the airplane will now serve as a symbol of innovation and imagination for the next generation of aerospace engineers, pilots, scientists and enthusiasts.

Among the special guests at the Oct. 11 event in Japan were the Centrair CEO, the US Ambassador to Japan, the deputy chairman of ANA Holdings, the vice chairman of JAL, the deputy mayor of Seattle, and Boeing Japan president Brett Gerry.

“This airplane is a great symbol of Boeing’s unique relationship with Japan, Boeing’s deepest source of partnership in the world,” said Gerry. “Centrair has done a superb job of creating an experience that honors the role of this airplane in history, and captures the innovative and pioneering spirit of the aerospace industry.”

Visitors to the Flight of Dreams facility are treated to a fully interactive, immersive experience: exhibits that let you walk through 787 final assembly, sketch an airplane and fly it around a dome, perform a vertical takeoff in a 787 simulator, experience what it’s like to be part of the airline crew, and more. All of this is done in brilliant, vivid color provided by the avant garde Japanese art collective called teamLab.

Tom Meier, a General Manager in BT&E Flight Test said he was “blown away by what Centrair has done for this airplane. I was in the factory day one with ZA001, along with my teammates and stayed with her until the day we delivered her to Centrair in 2015. Seeing her displayed so prominently and rightly taking her place in history is amazing, and fills me with pride.”

The facility also brings a bit of Seattle culture to Japan, highlighting shops and restaurants from Seattle like Starbucks, Beecher’s Cheese, Ethan Stowell restaurants, Fran’s Chocolates, Pike Brewing, and many others.

To complete the experience, visitors can stop by the very first Boeing Store to open outside of the U.S., and shop for specialty items available only at Flight of Dreams, plus customer favorites featuring 787 airplanes and Boeing trademark designs.

Kim Herber, Boeing’s project manager for the completion of the Flight of Dreams, captured everyone’s feelings on opening day: “It is magical to see ZA001 surrounded by changing colors and sounds and lit up like a star. I wish everyone with any connection to this special plane could experience the Flight of Dreams.”