An insiders guide: 787 Dreamliner

Photography by Stuart Bailey

As interviewed by Harriet Cooper

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September 2017

This month we’re taking delivery of our 25th Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and who better to celebrate this state-of-the-art aircraft than those who know it best? We ask three British Airways employees – a cabin crew member, a pilot and an engineer – why the 787 Dreamliner is the future of travel.

The pilot

Suneil Banerjee, British Airways Senior First Officer

Breath of fresh air

The air in the cabins of a 787 comes directly from outside. Customers say they feel fresher after a long-haul flight.

Smooth operator

We’ve got a system on board called the Gust Suppression System, which recognises changes in wind speed and direction which cause the lumps and bumps and counteract them to give you a smoother ride. You can’t eradicate turbulence, but the lumps and bumps are a lot less with the 787.

All in the delivery

There’s a fanfare when we take delivery of a new 787. Boeing even gives us a ceremonial key in a box. Of course, you don’t actually start a plane with a key: a combination of switches direct fuel and electricity to the 787 engines, which starts them up.

Back to school

We do a two-month 787 training course – a month in the classroom and a month in the simulator (we have two 787 simulators at Heathrow). The trainers sit behind us and bring up every scenario, so should the unlikely happen on a real flight, we know how to deal with it safely.

A heads up

We have a HUD (Head-up Display) in the flight deck – the primary flight information (altitude, speed and so forth) is projected onto a transparent glass screen in front of us, so we can continue to look out the window whilst also reading the flight parameters.

  • Discover Chile with our 787 Dreamliner flight to Santiago © Getty Images.

    Flights of fancy

    Explore Chile’s glorious wine country or magnificent coastline before heading to the exciting Torres del Paine National Park.

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  • Up close: a peek inside the 787 Dreamliner hangar © Stuart Bailey.

    Boeing, boeing, gone

    The 787 Dreamliner has a flying range of 15,190km, meaning it can fly non-stop to destinations such as Santiago and Rio de Janeiro from our London hub.

    Discover our fleet
  • Room with a view – the flightdeck of the 787 Dreamliner © Suneil Banerjee.

    Did you know...?

    All of the essential flight information can be viewed on the transparent display screen, allowing pilots to see out and keep track at the same time.

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Wing it

The way the wings are designed means the 787 has the ability to be pretty speedy. When planes come in to land, the wing gets every ounce of lift from the speed and you can see them flexing up – it’s a phenomenal bit of engineering.

As pilots we get the first taste of new routes - it’s why I choose to fly the 787 over any other aircraft.

All corners of the world

The 787 is relatively small compared to other long-haul aircraft and its fuel efficiency means we’re now flying routes which previously weren’t commercially viable. As pilots we get the first taste of these new routes – it’s why I chose to fly the 787 over any other aircraft.

Soul search in the Big easy

I’ve always loved travel, visiting new places and trying new things. My favourite destination has to be New Orleans and the 787 now flies there direct. The music is fantastic, the food is brilliant, it’s got year-round warm weather… It ticks all the boxes really.

Follow Suneil’s adventures flying the 787 Dreamliner @the787dreamlife.

The cabin crew

Susie Smillie, British Airways Cabin Service Director

Window on the world

The windows in the 787 are thirty per cent bigger than any other aircraft. It means customers can maintain eye level with the horizon, which lessens motion sickness. And on a daylight flight there’s more natural light, so your body can cope better with travelling through time zones – great for jet lag.

Futuristic glass

The plastic window blinds of old have gone. The 787 windows are made from electrochromic glass, which has five stages of colour, ranging from completely dark to the brightest light. Passengers can adjust the colour with electronic dimmers.

It’s oh so quiet

The reduced noise level of the 787 is something customers will really notice. In fact, it’s sixty percent quieter than other aircraft and this means that customers can sleep better.

  • Get a taste of the Deep South in New Orleans © Getty Images.

    Come fly with me

    We are the only airline to fly direct between London and New Orleans, and offer four flights a week.

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  • Hanging around: our 787 Dreamliner getting the star treatment © Stuart Bailey.

    Plane talking

    The 787 Dreamliner has a wingspan of 60 metres, that’s the same as around 30 eagles or 10 pterodactyls.

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  • Take a trip onboard the Dreamliner to Tokyo © Getty Images.

    Liners of duty

    Did you know that both our Boeing 787 Dreamliner and our Airbus A380 fly between London and Tokyo?

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Spaced out

In the 787-9, we have a First cabin with only eight seats and there’s masses of space; and there are 42 Club World seats, 39 World Traveller Plus (WTP) and 127 World Traveller (WT).

All the mod cons

The 787 has been really thought through and customers have a power charger and USB outlet by their seat, personal audio and video on demand – and incredibly comfortable cabins. Even the air conditioning has a special filtration system.

Long range leader

The biggest surprise when we were training was the range of the 787: it can fly really far without stopping. I was expecting to go to the East coast of America, but now we’re off to ShanghaiSantiago and, my favourite place at the moment, Tokyo – it’s just so different.

The 787 is sixty per cent quieter than other aircraft and this means that customers can sleep better.

Trip the light fantastic

The mood lighting is amazing – there’s a setting for everything, from take off and landing to one for day boarders, evening service, and sleep, with different settings for different cabins. It makes customers really comfortable.

Set the bar high

We now do a hand-run bar service in Club World on the 787 – so rather than a trolley coming down the aisle, it’s a more restaurant-style service (everything in First is hand-run). It means we have to be very organised in the galley, but it works really well.

A comfortable crew

It’s not just the customers who are more comfortable on the 787, the crew are too. We have our own heating (and lighting) system in the galley, as we tend to get quite hot. And we’ve got bunk beds for flight and cabin crew, which is great.

  • Sink into the suites in our First cabin.

    Dream life

    Our First suites were designed specifically for the 787-9 Dreamliner. Each of the eight suites offers a fully flat bed, large inflight entertainment screen and exclusive amenity kits.

    Explore our cabins

The engineer

Colin Lakin, British Airways Technical Manager Programs and Design

Wing it

One of the most unique things about the 787 is its raked wingtip, where the wing sweeps upwards at the end. It’s designed to give the aircraft more fuel efficiency and allow it to climb in a better way. It’s probably the first time we’ve seen this in commercial service.

Ease the pressure

The aircraft consists of a carbon fibre fuselage, which makes it stronger and allows the pressure to be maintained at a lower level in the cabin. This gives more oxygen and humidity, which lessens the effects of jetlag and makes for a more comfortable experience for passengers and crew.

The wheel thing

At London Heathrow, it takes two people 30 minutes to change a 787 tyre and that’s including jacking the aircraft up. It’s pretty quick. And it takes about eight people five days to paint the whole aircraft, using 250 litres of paint.

Heavy hitter

A 787 flies at Mach 0.85 – equivalent to 650 miles per hour – and the engines are quieter than other aircraft, because the cowls are specially shaped to reduce noise.

Screen time

On the 787-9, the First cabin offers a full gate-to-gate in flight entertainment (IFE) experience. This means the IFE screen is in front of the First customer all the time, so they can watch it as soon as they board.

At your pre-service

When this particular aircraft arrives at London Heathrow, it’ll go straight into a pre-service input at engineering – this is basically to finish off a number of items including IFE software and content load, safety equipment installations and other minor changes, and to be given that distinctive British Airways touch. That takes about 48 hours, then the aircraft will be ready for our customers.

The 787 raked wingtip is designed to give the aircraft more fuel efficiency and allows it to climb in a better way.

A good start

We start a configuration phase of the aircraft around two-and-a-half years before we actually deliver it. In that period, we are specifying the aircraft and developing new products to put on board like the seats, galleys, toilets and other types of interior equipment.

Collection point

When the aircraft is ready for us to collect, it takes about seven days in total to complete the process. We fly out engineers, who inspect the aircraft for a couple of days, as well as a pilot who carries out an acceptance flight. A rectification and certification process follows, and then we purchase the aircraft.