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The New Boeing 787 Dreamliner Carbon-Fibre

Aluminium has been the standard material used in aircraft for more than a century - even the Wright brothers' famous first flight in 1903 used an aircraft made partially from the metal. But the 'aluminium age' could be about to end - with the delivery of the first large-scale commercial aircraft made using 50 per cent 'composite materials' including plastics and carbon fibre.

The much-delayed Boeing Dreamliner 787 has a range of 10,000 miles, is far quieter than ordinary jets, and is constructed using a 'moulding' process that has eliminated 1,500 aluminum sheets and 50,000 fasteners. It's also three years late - and has cost a reported $32billion.
Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 programme, said: 'It took a lot of hard work to get to this day.'

The first Boeing 787s - delivered to All Nippon Airways - are 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than rivals, but also offer in-flight luxuries such as electrically dimmed windows.

All Nippon Airways is the first airline to take delivery of the hi-tech new plane - the first large-scale commercial jetliner to be built from composite materials, not aluminium.
 The hi-tech new aircraft seats 250-290 and offers increased comfort - the air inside is less dry than comparable jets, and First Class passengers will enjoy entertainment on 17-inch touchscreens.

The aircraft has been much delayed - its maiden flight was delayed for more than two years - and will cost up to $200 million. The delays are reported to have cost maker Boeing more than $32 billion. 

It offers hi-tech entertainment with Android touchscreens built into every seat - even in Economy. The 'composite' design - using mixed materials such as titanium and carbon fibre - is believed to have been a spur for rival Airbus to incorporate carbon fibre in future aircraft.

 Workers inspect the first production models of the 787 Dreamliner - with fuselage assembled from composite sections rather than huge numbers of aluminium sheets.

The blue and white-painted long-range aircraft, which boasts a graceful new design with raked wingtips, will leave for Japan on Tuesday and enter service domestically on Oct 26.

One of the components that gives the 787 Dreamliner its extraordinary range and fuel economy - 20 per cent less than other equivalent aircraft - are its engines, hi-tech new models made by Rolls Royce. 

'It is simpler than today's aeroplanes and offers increased functionality and efficiency,' says Boeing's official description of the plane. 'The team has incorporated airplane health-monitoring systems that allow the airplane to self-monitor and report systems maintenance requirements to ground-based computer systems by itself.'

'You can tell the Dreamliner is special the moment you see it coming in to land,' says Jonathan Margolis, a technology specialist who saw one of its first test flights, 'The near silence is almost spooky.  But the thing which struck me most when I saw it at the Farnborough Air Show was the obvious suppleness of the composite structure. You can clearly see the wings flexing. It almost looks like an Airfix kit.'
'Speaking to the pilot later, he confirmed that as a result of its ultra-light airframe, the 787 is exceptionally manoeuvrable and easy to fly precisely.'

All passengers will enjoy hi-tech entertainment courtesy of an iPad-like Android tablet built into the back of every seat.

Boeing abandoned plans for a sound barrier-chasing 'Sonic Cruiser' a decade ago and worked on lighter long-range jets as cash-starved airlines valued efficiency over speed. Boeing expects this to become the standard for future passenger planes.

Mike Sinnett, the 787 program's chief project engineer, said: 'Technology will only get more efficient and lighter.
The plane's lighter weight allows airlines to operate routes even when the demand is insufficient for larger aircraft like the Boeing 777 or 747, or the Airbus 380 superjumbo.
Fancher added: 'For aviation we believe this is as important as the 707 was with the introduction of the jet age.

He moved to head off any fears over the new materials, stressing the tough moulded composites used to create the aircraft were nothing like ordinary plastic.
'Plastic is what you have on the dashboard of your car. This is not plastic,' he told reporters.

The 787 development program has been delayed seven times due to challenges with engineering, supply chain glitches and a 58-day labor strike in 2008.
'We have been waiting for the 787 for over 3 years as we expected it in the summer of 2008,' said senior vice president Satoru Fujiki who took part in negotiations to buy the 787.

The techniques used to create the 787 Dreamliner have eliminated the need for multiple aluminium sheets and up to 50,000 fasteners.
'I can't say the delayed delivery didn't have any impact but ANA and Boeing worked closely to mitigate it,' he said, adding Boeing had provided alternative jets to meet the shortfall.
ANA has ordered a total of 55 Dreamliners worth $11billion at current list prices, including 40 of the 260-passenger 787-8 variant being delivered this week.

 Some of the aircraft's 20 per cent fuel efficiency gains are thanks to extensive wind-tunnel testing at facilities including Britain's Farnborough air base.

ANA plans to take delivery of four planes in 2011 and an additional eight next year.
The Seattle Times reported on Sunday that 787 program costs had topped $32 billion due to delays. That estimate raised questions, the newspaper said, over whether the new jet would make money for Boeing before 'well into the 2020s, if ever.' Boeing declined comment on the claims.
Analysts say new jets typically cost closer to $15billion.

Analysts have speculated that the huge delays in delivering the hi-tech new jet could mean Boeing will not turn a profit until 2020.

Boeing also faces Wall Street concerns over its ability to reach its target of lifting output to 10 planes a month by 2013.

Aerospace analyst Scott Hamilton said: 'Boeing still has to achieve a smooth production ramp-up and still has to do rework on some 40 airplanes that it says will take years to complete.'

A makeshift sign shows a ramp leading to the first 787 has been hastily converted from '777' - an earlier, less efficient Boeing model.
Asked how confident he was that Boeing would stick to its latest output goals, ANA's Fujiki said: 'We are quite confident in Boeing's ability to deliver on schedule this time.'
Also uncertain is how many planes Boeing must sell to break even, something the company is not yet saying.

'If it is 1,200, they should make money; if it is larger than that it could be challenging,' Hamilton said.
The delivery comes as Boeing remains locked in a dispute with one ofits top labor unions in Washington state, where it has traditionally built its aircraft.

The International Association of Machinists and the National Labor Relations Board accuse Boeing of building a non-union 787 plant in South Carolina to punish the IAM for past strikes.
Boeing denies that claim, saying the jobs in South Carolina represent new employment, not the relocation of existing work.

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