Boeing's 787 Dreamliner takes off for the first time (photo: Boeing)
Wed 16 Dec 2009 – Boeing’s first new airplane for over decade, the 787 Dreamliner, finally took to the skies yesterday from its home base in Everett, Washington. Powered by two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines on its maiden test flight, the flight test programme will continue over the coming months by five other 787s, including two that will be powered by General Electric GEnx engines. The plane manufacturer claims the all-new aircraft will use 20% less fuel than other current airplanes of comparable size and the 85 dbA noise footprint is 60% smaller. First deliveries are expected in the fourth quarter of 2010 to launch customer All Nippon Airways. The flight coincides with a prediction by IATA that airlines will continue to fare badly in 2010.
Despite cancellations from airlines either cash-strapped or not willing to wait after the two-year delay in production, 55 customers around the world have ordered 840 787s, making the Dreamliner the fastest-selling new commercial jetliner in history, claims Boeing.
Describing the arrival of the 787 as a “new era in fuel efficiency”, Boeing says four technologies have contributed to the 20% reduction in fuel and emissions: new engines, increased use of lightweight composite materials and electric systems that lighten the plane, more efficient systems applications and modern aerodynamics. Half of the 787’s weight is made up of composites compared with 12% of the 777. At the end of the service life of a 787, the materials are recyclable.
The manufacturer also says the 787 is significantly better on NOx emissions than is currently required and will be superior to more stringent future regulations under consideration by ICAO’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection (CAEP).
Other improvements include a new interior environment with cleaner air, larger windows, more stowage space, improved lighting and other passenger-preferred conveniences.
On the same day that the aviation industry celebrated the first flight of a major new commercial airliner, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) announced that it had revised its financial outlook for 2010 to an expected $5.6 billion global net loss, larger than the previously forecast loss of $3.8 billion. For 2009, IATA maintained its forecast of a $11 billion net loss.
“The world’s airlines will lose $11.0 billion in 2009. We are ending an Annus Horribilis that brings to a close the 10 challenging years of an aviation Decennis Horribilis. Between 2000 and 2009, airlines lost $49.1 billion, which is an average of $5.0 billion per year,” said Giovanni Bisignani, IATA’s Director General and CEO.
“The worst is likely behind us. For 2010, some key statistics are moving in the right direction. Demand will likely continue to improve and airlines are expected to drive down non-fuel unit costs by 1.3%. But fuel costs are rising and yields are a continuing disaster. Airlines will remain firmly in the red in 2010 with $5.6 billion in losses.”
Following a decline of 4.1% in 2009, passenger traffic is expected to grow by 4.5% in 2010 (stronger than the previously forecast 3.2% in September). A total of 2.28 billion people are expected to fly in 2010, bringing total passenger numbers back in line with the peak recorded in 2007.
IATA’s economists expect an average oil price of $75 per barrel in 2010, up considerably from the $61.8 average expected for 2009. As a percentage of operating costs, fuel will be 26% in 2010. This is considerably lower than the 32% of operating costs that fuel comprised in 2008, but twice the 13% of operating costs that fuel represented in 2001-2002.
“The number of travellers will be back to the peak levels of 2007, but with $30 billion less in revenues. The $38 billion cash cushion built up throughout this year will help airlines survive through the low season, but there is no recovery in sight for 2010. Tough times continue,” said Bisignani.
Comparison of the 85 dbA noise contour at London’s Heathrow Airport of two 787 models compared with the 767 (source: Boeing):
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