Time flies, as they say, and it is an unbelievable 11 years since Boeing delivered the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner to a customer. All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan took delivery of its first Boeing 787 on 26th September 2011. This followed a delivery ceremony at the Boeing Everett factory in Washington state.
The first delivery flight came just two years after Boeing completed the first test flight. That took place in December 2009, following years of planning and design. According to Boeing, more than 12,000 people witnessed the first flight.
ANA was the launch airline for the aircraft
ANA placed an initial order to purchase 50 aircraft in April 2004, and as the launch customer, the airline was part of the development team. ANA pilots and mechanics worked with Boeing in the design of the aircraft.
The official delivery ceremony was attended by over 500 people and watched by thousands more in the surrounding area. Those unable to be there could follow on the live webcast. Boeing was delighted to deliver the first aircraft, and Vice President and General Manager of the 787 program at that time, Scott Fancher, said,
Now that the airplane is ready to deliver, the entire team is ready to celebrate. We look forward to honoring our launch customer ANA before they fly their first Dreamliner home to Japan. ANA has been a tremendous partner from day one. Through the hard work and challenges, the Boeing team never lost focus on the commitments to our valued customer. We know ANA’s customers will love this airplane.”
ANA was the design partner for Boeing and the launch airline for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Photo: Getty Images
The Boeing 787 enabled airlines to use this mid-size aircraft to operate more long-haul routes. It opened up new opportunities, including more flights to secondary airports on routes that may not have been commercially viable with the older generation of long-haul aircraft.
History in the making at the ceremony
The people at the ceremony were witnessing aviation history. The composite structure of the aircraft is made up of up to 50% composite materials, the first aircraft to do so. Using composite materials in the design reduces the aircraft’s weight and makes it more fuel efficient. Boeing stated that the design and choice of material eliminated the requirement for 1,500 aluminum sheets and between 40,000 – 50,000 fasteners per section.
It also provided a higher standard of passenger comfort using larger windows, lower cabin altitude, and quieter engines. Larger overhead bins, different cabin lighting options, and technology to counter turbulence all contribute to a more comfortable environment in the cabin.
One of the flight test aircraft painted in ANA’s livery was displayed on the first day of the ceremony. The aircraft delivered to ANA was introduced in a special ANA livery before being flown from Everett to Tokyo the following day.
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A bright future and successful aircraft interrupted by battery issues
Speaking 10 years after the first flight, Brad Zaback, Vice President and General Manager of the 787 program at Boeing, said,
“In the ten years since the 787 first took flight, this airplane program has flourished thanks to our dedicated teams in Everett, Washington and North Charleston, South Carolina. We couldn’t have reached this milestone without their dedication to safety, quality and delivering on our commitments to our customers. I couldn’t be prouder to work with them every day.”
In January 2013, Boeing 787’s were grounded worldwide due to safety issues with the lithium-ion batteries used for the aircraft’s APU. A fire onboard a Japan Airlines 787 at Boston Logan International Airport prompted the grounding and investigation. After these issues were resolved, the aircraft was returned to service and continues to be a popular aircraft for airlines and passengers.
ANA operates all three variants of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner across their domestic and international network. Photo: Daniel Martinez Garbuno | Simple Flying
The aircraft has been a success for ANA, and it has purchased the latest variants, with B787-9 and B787-10 aircraft in its fleet. ANA was the first Japanese airline to operate the B787-10 and is one of just a handful of airlines operating all three variants.