Friday, October 28, 2011

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

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On October 26th, Boeing’s newest aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner made its first commercial flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong. Mind you this is three years late than initially planned.

This new offering, which is a midsized twinjet, is not designed to be faster than the rest, or bigger than the rest, but it is designed to be more fuel efficient. This factor alone can make a huge difference to the troubled airline industry. According to Boeing, the new Dreamliner uses 20% less fuel than any other aircraft of its size.

Another feature of this design is that it is constructed from a light-weight carbon-composite. It is 80% composite material by volume. This composite material is a carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer or plastic, and this aircraft is made from 32,000kg of it. This material has a higher strength-to-weight ratio than traditional materials used in aircraft building and helps to make the aircraft lightweight. Other traditional material like aluminum is used on the wings and tail leading edges, and titanium on engines and fasteners.

The engines used in this aircraft are designed with several noise reduction features. Among these are a redesigned air inlet containing sound absorbing material and a redesigned exhaust duct with tooth patterned rims, allowing for a quitter mixing of exhaust and outside air. These features are expected to make it significantly quieter both outside and inside. There are two models of engines used, one from Rolls Royce and the other from General Electric.

The interior also has many upgrades. The cabin pressure will be increased to an equivalent of 6000 feet instead of the 8000 feet equivalent used on other aircraft. This will significantly improve on passenger comfort. An improved cabin air-conditioning system provides better air quality: Ozone is removed from outside air; HEPA filters remove bacteria, viruses, and fungi; and a gaseous filtration system removes odors, irritants, and gaseous contaminants. The windows are larger and have an electronic based auto-dimming, taking out the window shades. It is also designed to better accommodate persons with mobility, sensory and cognitive disabilities.

Because of the increased fuel efficiency, the Dreamliner is able to travel further than other aircraft of similar capacity. Its range is 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles (14,200 to 15,200 kilometers). Apparently this is the new focus of the airline industry, to have direct flights and reduce the amount of stopovers and transits. This is known as the point-to-point theory, which is a transportation system that offers direct travel to the direction. This is the opposite of the spoke-hub distribution theory, where passengers come to a central location and change into another craft towards their destination.

There are many advantages to this point-to-point system:
  • Minimize connections and travel time
  • No interdependency on other flights means that it can avoid the domino effect of delays, where one delay can have a rippling effect throughout the network
  • Lower chance of baggage loss and baggage delays

High capacity aircraft like the Airbus A380 are ideal for the spoke-hub scenario. With new aircraft like the Dreamliner, airlines can offer long range point-to-point routes that can be profitable for them. If the airlines are profitable, then the benefits can be passed down to the passengers, mainly in the form of lower ticket prices and/or value added services. 


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