Friday, 12 February 2010

[Aviation] Boeing readies latest models to take flight

As a matter of fact, they're already in the air undergoing a barrage of tests. Which models I hear you ask, well one which you may have guessed is the much publicised (probably more because of its delays than any other single factor) is the so called Dreamliner, the new Boeing 787. The mid-sized aircraft initially famed for racking up orders faster than any previous wide body airliner, a figure which is currently over 850, became a victim of its own ambition. At a time when the super jumbo from Airbus was encountering heavy delays that resulted in lose of face and shriveling up of fresh orders, Boeing confidently stated there were no such hiccups with their Boeing 787 progress only to concede later, more than once, that they too weren't as infallible as they led themselves to believe. The resultant delays meant that the aircraft's maiden flight took place more than 2 years later than originally intended!

In fact that maiden flight happened quite recently, it was 15 December 2009 when the first of the 787s eventually took to the air. Any number of expectant airliner personnel would have breathed a sigh of relief to see it in the air, and thats discounting the hoards of Boeing staff who came out to witness the big moment. But the wait is not over, with the first delivery only expected at the end of 2010 following the testing phase.

So what's so great about the 787, well it is built from lighter composite materials which should improve fuel consumption figures. Why is this is a big deal one might ask, the answer is because over the past decade the average percentage of the total running costs reported by airlines indicate that the cost of fuel which used to be around 10 - 15% has escalated to about 30% of the total operational cost! Alright good for them, but set aside the profit margins, what do we as passengers have to look forward to? Will it have a lie flat configuration in economy, unfortunately the seats appear to be pretty much the same as what we're used to (yup, knee breaking, spine crushing... its all the same). There will however be a feature which will allow you to dim the windows (referred to as electro-chromic) with the touch of a button, thereby eliminating the need for a window blind. Its cool but not exactly mind blowing, the clip below shows a demo.

While all the hype has been over the 787 the 'new' 747-8 took flight on 9 February 2010. It looks pretty much the same as the 747 which has been around for four decades but now it features redesigned wings and new engines as its major modifications in an effort to drive down the fuel consumption. You might also notice from the picture the lack of windows along the side of the aircraft, there are only three, that's because this is a freighter aircraft. The passenger variant of the 747-8 to be christened 'Intercontinental' will follow later in the year. Boeing will indeed be able to carve out a market share for the latest 747 as there hasn't been any alternative for large cargo aircraft since the old 747. The A380 freighter variant is suspended for the moment while they try to get production figures of the passenger edition up to the desired figures. So it appears the cargo carriers are queuing up in anticipation to rid their old jumbo fleets in favour of the more economical 747-8.

One thing's for sure, Boeing and Airbus are going to be really busy for the next couple of years churning out aircraft to meet the backlog, lets hope they don't incur any further mishaps.

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