AEROSPACE; Boeing bets 787 has right stuff

Analysts say composite materials used to make the new plane will be revolutionary. A festive rollout is planned


"The 787 represents an entirely new way of producing planes," said Scott Hamilton, an aviation industry consultant in Issaquah, Wash.

Boeing has 6,000 suppliers in California, many of them in the Southland. It is also the largest private employer in Southern California, with 31,000 workers.

The company still faces a few big hurdles with the 787.

In haste to make the Sunday rollout, the first test flights won't happen until a month later than originally scheduled. Basic parts, such as fasteners, are running short and major sections have arrived incomplete, leaving more work to be done by Boeing employees in Everett.

But Boeing executives insist that the first plane will be delivered to ANA on time. To avoid delays that have plagued the A380 being developed by its archrival Airbus, Boeing has take unusual steps, including temporarily transferring engineers that typically work on military projects to the 787 program.

The super-jumbo A380 is nearly two years behind schedule and has led to the ouster of top Airbus executives and a major restructuring of the Toulouse, France-based aircraft maker.

Although the 787 is expected to save airlines a lot of money and redefine aircraft manufacturing, less certain is its effect for passengers.

Passengers will notice that the windows and the overhead bins are larger. The air in the cabin should be healthier and feel better because the composite hull will allow the airplane to be pressurized to an equivalent of about 6,000 feet above sea level compared with about 8,000 feet for today's jetliners. At the lower pressurized height, passengers should be able to breathe in slightly more oxygen.

But basic creature comforts such as wider seats and more legroom will depend on the airlines and how they want to configure the cabin. The plane's first customer, ANA, hasn't revealed how the seating will be designed but has plans to install bidets in the 787 restrooms.

"It's a great plane for airlines," Hamilton said. "It has the potential to be a great plane for passengers, but it will all depend on what the airlines want to do."

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peter.pae@latimes.com

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The Dreamliner

What's new

* The aircraft's use of lightweight composites will be unprecedented -- about 50% of the primary structure by weight versus 12% for the last all-new Boeing, the 777.

* Its lighter weight and all-new engines are expected to make the plane 20% more fuel-efficient than similarly sized planes.

* As composite materials do not corrode, moisture in cabin air can be much higher than in today's planes, promising a more pleasant flying experience.

Key facts

* The 787-8 Dreamliner will seat about 250 people.

* The aircraft will fly at Mach 0.85, about 570 mph at typical cruise altitudes, similar to a 747 jumbo jet.

* The first version of the plane, the 787-8, will have a range of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles.

* The 787-8 is 186 feet long and has a wingspan of 197 feet.

Sources: Reuters, Boeing

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Key events

These are some key dates in the history of Boeing and airline travel:

1910: William E. Boeing buys a shipyard in Seattle, which later becomes his first airplane factory.

1917: Boeing changes the name of Pacific Aero Products to Boeing Airplane Co. and manufactures seaplanes for the Navy.

1933: Boeing develops the propeller-powered Model 247, the first modern passenger airliner.

1938: The first flight of Boeing's Model 307 Stratoliner, the first high-altitude commercial plane. It has a pressurized cabin and four propeller-driven engines.

1952: The commercial jet age is launched with the introduction of the British-designed de Havilland Comet.

1954: Boeing's 707 prototype makes its maiden flight, establishing the basic configuration for jet-powered airliners.

1958: Pan American World Airways starts transatlantic 707 service between New York and Paris, revolutionizing intercontinental travel.

1964: Boeing's tri-jet 727 enters service.

1968: Boeing's 737 enters service. It goes on to become the standard workhorse for domestic and regional airlines, with more than 7,000 planes manufactured, the most for any jetliner model.

1970: Boeing's 747 jumbo jet enters service. Early versions of the first wide-body plane can carry more than 500 people and are twice the size of the 707.

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