I flew on the Boeing 787, the Dreamliner last week on my travels to London. United flies a few of these new planes, and the IAH-LHR is one of the routes. Since I go this way often, I decided to try and see how the plane compared.
My wife was wondering what was special about the plane, and if it was huge, like the Airbus A380. It isn’t, and is actually designed to be a mid range plane. Boeing didn’t try to outdo the 747 with this plane. It was built to connect more airports around the world on a point to point basis, rather than the hub and spoke method many airlines use. Hub and spoke works well, but there are times that it isn’t as efficient as schedules get delayed trying to get people to a hub.
I didn’t figure this out. I heard about it at a tour of the Boeing Factory in Washington. That’s where I saw some of the innovative, additive manufacturing they used for the plane. I also saw one of the huge DreamLifter planes they use to get parts from around the world to the assembly plant.
Not to diverge too much, but those place are huge. There are only 4, and they are needed to bring some of the huge pieces of the Dreamliner to Seattle in one piece, inside this plane. That was a piece of engineering all on its own, converting and enlarging a 747.
My flight on the Dreamliner started when I got to Houston last week. I had booked a window seat, which I rarely do, but I wanted to see what it was like on this plane.
Normally when I fly overseas, I like a side seat, since the plane is rarely full and I have a good chance of getting the two side seats to myself. However when I got into the Dreamliner, they had a 3-3-3 configuration in economy. Not what I wanted, and the downside was that I had the window, but someone else had the aisle. I had a little space, but not a lot. However, it did seem to be a bit more front-to-back room than I normally see on United’s 757 and 767 planes.
One thing I did notice is that it’s a tall plane. On most planes, even if my 6ft head isn’t close to the ceiling, I can often reach up and touch it. I try to stretch a bit, and I’ve noticed this. One the 787, I wasn’t close. The ceiling is high. That added to an open feeling.
The windows are also larger. They don’t have shades, using electronic shading to dim, but not close.
It was dark, and I was tired as we left Houston for the overnight flight to London. However I did notice that the wings were unusual. They are curved, bending in a shape that’s unique. They flex more than I like, but they are also new. Shinier than any plane I’ve been on. I could see the lights of Houston reflected as we flew.
It wasn’t amazing, but it was a better trip for me. Especially when I turned around in Heathrow and flew on an old, Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt a couple hours after landing.
The way home was more interesting. I got on the plane at 11:10 or so, ready for an 11:40 departure.
I was thinking that this would be an easy flight, but that wasn’t the case. I had a book on my iPad I was reading with headphones on. After a bit I noticed that we hadn’t taken off. It was 12:00 and we were at the gate. We got a few announcements that there was an actuator on one of the wheels that controls the brakes. The pilot didn’t want us to worry, and let us know multiple times that there were a number of actuators (I think he said 12) on each wheel, and we could fly fine without a couple of them working. However we had one that was reporting seized.
I’ve had numerous plane issues in the past, on multiple airlines, but mainly United. I chose the 787, thinking it was new and unlikely to have issues. I had a somewhat tight connection in Houston that I thought I’d make.
Time went on. The pilot reported that they thought it was electronic, since most of the plane is electronic. They couldn’t clear the indicator, and decided they’d need to check the actuator. We heard, and I’m not kidding, that they needed to jack up the plane to relieve the weight on the actuator and release it. They didn’t need it to work for the flight (or landing), but they did need it released. They did that, and found the actuator was fine.
It was getting later, and they couldn’t clear the issue, so they rebooted the plane. I’m not kidding. They told us they needed to power down and power up, which meant that they turned everything off. No air, no lights, nothing. It was strange to see the plane power down and then reboot, which took more than 10 minutes, and may have been as much as 20. I was reading and semi-watching the time.
Eventually they cleared the light with the reboot and we took off. Two hours late. We made up time, coming in only about an hour later, but I missed my plane. Fortunately I’d tweeted United during the delay and they had rebooked me while I was in the air.
It was an interesting flight to be sure. All day, we flew with the sun over us and to my left. However the windows were dimmed the entire time, making it seem like twilight. I could see the sun and clouds, but the flight was pleasant.
It was a long journey back, and the equipment issues were annoying, but I enjoyed the plane more than others. I hope I don’t get delays again, and I worry about the software and electronics a bit in modern planes as we might be a bit overconfident in how we build them, but certainly the plane was a better built one for me as a passenger than previous ones.
Now if I can only figure out how to get a first class ticket for one of these flights…