Dreamliner: Flying the friendlier skies

The Boeing Stratoliner was an iconic aircraft that practically called out COME FLY WITH ME. So can this new Boeing 787, the Dreamliner, really bring back the good old days of air travel? Our Cover Story is reported now by Barry Petersen:

If you believe the old TV commercials, airline travel used to be amazingly pleasant ! Now we are searched and stressed, and left standing in endless lines.

But Boeing believes its new 787 Dreamliner will bring back some of the good old days.

"Really what we were trying to see if we could trigger again, recapture the magic that flying really is," said Boeing's Blake Emery, who helped design the interior - where even spaciousness comes with a message:

"We really wanted from the moment you crossed the threshold to be able to kind of say, 'Ah, I made it, this is it, this is going to be good from here on out,'" Emery said. "A total psychological moment."

It's a plane that won cheers on rollout at its Seattle factory . . . and made a splash when the first one went into service last fall in Tokyo, flown by Japan's ANA (All Nippon Airways).

United has 50 on order for future delivery.

But for the moment, the chance to fly in the plane across America is restricted to demonstration flights, where a lucky journalist can join mostly Boeing employees.

And once inside, the first difference is obvious: Much bigger windows, which make the whole cabin feel more spacious. And forget about having to pull down a shade - these windows use a small electric charge and a button that takes them from dim all the way down to darkness.

Those big windows work because the fuselage is constructed for the first time ENTIRELY with carbon fiber reinforced plastic, a material that is lighter than traditional aluminum.

It's been used for years on airplanes' tail sections.

And Boeing test pilot Mike Bryan likes what you don't hear: "The rest of the aircraft, the engines are spectacularly quiet," Bryan told Petersen. "The chevrons on the aft part that mixes the warm and cool air, we've heard many times on a fly-by on an air show, we just go flying by at 1,000 feet, you almost have to know we're coming or you might miss it."

But the Dreamliner has been a star-crossed saga.

Boeing outsourced production around the world, but that caused quality problems and delays that sent the $5 billion development costs soaring - by some estimates to more than $30 billion.

The first plane was delivered three years late, and those delays cost Boeing 160 orders.

"There's no question you lose credibility with your customers," said Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing commercial airplanes.

The company can sell the roughly $200 million Dreamliner for one huge reason: It sips less fuel.

"A 20 percent fuel savings for this airline means a 20 percent reduction in cost," said Tinseth.

"What you're basically saying," remarked Petersen, "this car gets better mileage."

"Yeah, it's all about the value proposition," said Tinseth.

The Dreamliner is one thing more: Designed to make money flying long distances with a smaller passenger load than a 747. That helps avoid the bane of every traveler's life - changing planes at a hub airport to get from here to there.

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