Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is en route to conclude its so-called “Dream Tour” with a sweep of appearances in the UK, Scandinavia and Italy. The trip has been a promotional odyssey that has already taken in the U.S., South America, China and Africa.
At an April 23 event at London Heathrow Airport, Boeing was able to parade the array of UK suppliers who collectively account for some 25 percent of the new widebody’s content by value. Also present were the airframer’s UK 787 customers—British Airways (24 on order), Virgin Atlantic (16) and Thomson Airways (9)—all of which, publicly at least, have been remarkably patient over the three- or four-year delivery delays they have had to endure following the Dreamliner’s well documented development and production problems. Boeing now says that it intends to be producing ten 787s per month by the end of next year.
The promotional events allowed Boeing and airline clients to showcase cabin features such as larger, dimmable windows, bigger baggage compartments and intelligent lighting intended to mitigate the effects of jet lag on globe-girdling flights of up to 18 hours and 8,500 miles. In addition to engine provider Rolls-Royce, other UK suppliers to the 787 include Goodrich (brakes and various other components), Aim Aviation (cabin interiors), GKN and Ultra Electronics (wing ice protection system) and SIRS Navigation (magnetic compass). Next planned stops are in Norway and then Italy, where the tour ends on May 4.
British Airways director of flight operations Stephen Riley said that 2013 would be an exciting year with both the 787 and the Airbus A380 entering the airline’s fleet—the first time the two types will be in operation in the same livery with the same airline. The airline already has three pilots qualified on the 787, and they will fly with Thomson as part of an exchange to prepare BA for the start of its own operations and training, with 787 routes expected to be focused mainly in Asia. For vacation charter operator Thomson the Dreamliner represents a major step up in terms of cabin comfort, and managing director Chris Browne indicated that the carrier intends to charge a small premium of £10 ($16) per passenger. Tim Levitt, Virgin’s chief financial officer, said that his airline’s 787s will replace Airbus A340s and will fly to destinations in emerging economies in Latin America and elsewhere; they will also operate from London Gatwick Airport on leisure routes such as Las Vegas.