Boeing Delivers JAL’s First 787s

 - March 27, 2012, 9:17 AM
(L-R) Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh, Japan Airlines president Yoshiharu Ueki and GE Aviation vice president of commercial engine operations Bill Fitzgerald present the newly signed delivery contract for two of 45 Boeing 787s at a ceremony held at Boeing's Future of Flight Center in Everett, Wash. (Photo: Evan Sweetman)

Japan Airlines took delivery of the first two of 45 Boeing 787 Dreamliners it has ordered at a ceremony in Everett, Wash., on March 26.

“We decided to buy this aircraft in 2005,” said JAL president Yoshiharu Ueki at the ceremony. “I was a pilot at the time [Ueki served most of his career as a JAL 747-400 captain], and I remember feeling very curious about the [787]. It once existed only in my imagination, and now we have it.”

An apologetic Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive, Jim Albaugh, acknowledged the three-years-late delivery to JAL, saying, “We hope you forgive us when you start operating it.”

The program suffered through various development setbacks as the airplane employs many advanced technologies, including the most composite material in a jetliner airframe to date.

JAL’s inaugural revenue passenger service will connect Tokyo Narita Airport with Boston Logan International on April 22. The second aircraft will enter passenger service later this year, flying from Narita to San Diego, Calif. In the weeks leading up to service launch, the airline will use the two aircraft for training staff in operations, cabin service, maintenance and airport handling, according to Ueki.

When questioned at a March 26 press conference preceding acceptance of the aircraft, Ueki told reporters that the choice of San Diego as the second U.S. route was based on JAL’s own market research and is unrelated to competitor Al Nippon Airways’ service to San Jose, near San Francisco. “In discussions with our partner, American Airlines, we determined many of our customers live in or around San Diego,” Ueki explained. “Many of our customers who use San Francisco don’t live in or around San Jose.” The airline already serves San Francisco with different equipment.

Japan Airlines plans to expand 787 service to Asia-Pacific routes such as Bangkok, Delhi and Singapore, and it is also exploring service to Europe, initially to Helsinki, Finland, and possibly Moscow.

The airline plans to use the smaller passenger capacity and long legs of the 787 to provide customers more scheduled flights than can be offered using larger aircraft such as the 747-400. Focus will also remain on using the fleet to offer more mid-range international flights, versus domestic routes. The airline sees the potential for the 787 in a 200-seat configuration to offer operating costs 50 percent lower than those of a Boeing 747-400.

JAL chose the General Electric GEnx-1B turbofan to power its 787s, marking the first such pairing of airframe and powerplant. GE engines already power many JAL aircraft, and the airline said its history with the U.S. manufacturer largely drove its powerplant selection for the 787s.

GE lists the rated thrust for the engine as 78,000 pounds, but many airlines, including JAL, are choosing governed engines developing slightly less power.