On July 5th, a test flight of Boeing’s 787 (B787) landed at Japan’s Haneda Airport.
The development of the B787 is said to have started with ANA’s (All Nippon Airways) order in 2004. The original plan was for the airplane to be in service for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, however due to part supply delays and electrical system problems this has been delayed. This was Boeing’s initial attempt at distributing orders for parts around the world, which is said to have caused delays.
The reason the B787 has been so widely covered by the Japanese media is because dozens of Japanese corporations have participated in the development of 35 percent of the aircraft. Boeing is using the expression, “Made with Japan.” Without Japanese technology, the B787 would never have been born.
In particular, the solidified composite materials from Toray’s special carbon fiber resin is an innovative material that is 2.5 times stronger and half the weight of the aluminum alloy used in previous aircraft.
The B787 is a mid-sized aircraft. Because the body is lighter and the engines have been revamped, fuel economy has improved by 20 percent compared to existing models. The flight distance for a single refueling has increased by 30 percent.
For long distances, jumbo jets like the well-known B747 were used. There is also the Airbus A380, which is known as the “flying hotel.” Currently, nonstop flights using jumbo jets only fly to cities where there is enough demand to fill the seats. However, with the arrival of the B787 there is the possibility that this could change dramatically.
In the past, we blogged about LCC (low cost carriers) and budget airlines, who focus on short distance (and occasionally mid-range) flights. Because the distances flown are short, these airlines use one type of airplane and fly frequently to reduce costs.
The mega carriers use alliances (groups of airline companies) and use LCC for connecting flights. For example, when flying from Tokyo to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, you fly from Tokyo to Bangkok on ANA, and then Bangkok to Phnom Penh on Thai Airways. In Tokyo, you can check-in all the way to Phnom Penh and the same is true for the return trip. ANA and Thai Airways are both connected to the same alliance, Star Alliance.
When the B787 goes into service, it will be possible to fly nonstop to Phnom Penh from Tokyo, as well as to other long distance medium sized cities. ANA has announced that it will offer service from Narita Airport to Boston. It’s anticipated that flights to other European cities that were previously unreachable via nonstop flights will increase in the future.
For the financially strong LCC, the B787 will give them the ability to fly long distances. For mega carriers, the aircraft will allow them to fly to not only large cities, but also medium sized cities. Increasing competition is inevitable and the role of alliances will likely change from the way they are today.
The B787 has been nicknamed the “Dreamliner.” Japan tends to focus on the “Made with Japan” aspect, however the Dreamliner was created by combining the world’s best and newest technologies and with the participation of various countries and companies. It’s quite simply the dream airplane.