787 Dreamliner open to public at air show

Thousands of people wait for their opportunity to step aboard the 787 in July 2011 (FILE).
July 29, 2011 1:18:53 PM PDT
One week out of the year, the regional airfield in Oshkosh, Wis., is the world's busiest airport. And at this year's air show, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was the star.

"I thought it was brilliant," Hailey Van den Bosch, of Willowbrook, said of the Dreamliner.

"I think I feel in love. I hope to fly one of these in a year or two," Doug Burtlag, a commercial pilot, said.

Half-a-million people from 60 countries visit AirVenture, an air show filled with experimental aircraft. All eyes turned toward the sky as the Dreamliner landed Friday morning. It was a proud moment for Willie Johnson and his wife, Regina. Their son, Richard, helped give birth to the big bird.

"I was just real proud of this airplane to see it make this trip here because it means a lot to me, a lot to Boeing and a lot to my son," Willie Johnson said.

Richard Johnson is a Boeing 787 flight test engineer. He has spent the last seven years working to get the plane off the ground.

"A lot of innovation has been designed into the airplane that hasn't been done before, so to be able to get on the airplane and see it function the way it was designed is a great experience," Richard Johnson said.

The aircraft is revolutionary inside and out. The Dreamliner's very skin is a composite material more akin to super-hardened plastic than metal. It burns 20-percent less fuel and can fly up to 250 passengers further than its competition. Yet the plane is still small enough to connect mid-size, international cities.

These days commercial airplanes only comprise half of Chicago-based Boeing's overall business. But the 787 is the company's highest profile project and its three years behind schedule.

Every major new airplane, particularly ones like the 747, that were big steps had their problems. A few decades later no one remembers that. But it's painful. New airplanes are hard, there's a lot of new technology. It's been hard, but it's been worth it," Mark Jenks, Boeing 787 project director, said.

All Nippon Airways, a Japanese carrier, is scheduled to take the first delivery of a 787 by late September. Then next year, Chicago-based United Airlines will become the first U.S. carrier to fly Boeing's big dream.


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