After a delay of more than three years, Chicago-based Boeing's much-hyped newest jet, the 787, made its first commercial flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong — and landed on-time.
The All Nippon Airways flight was packed mostly with aviation reporters and enthusiasts, some of whom paid thousands of dollars for the privilege and treated the experience like a rock concert, clapping after lift-off and snapping photos for posterity.
"It's silly, but it's a little piece of history. New cars come out all the time but how often do new planes come out?" said Stephanie Wood. She and her husband Dean, of Davie, Fla., won a charity auction by paying close to $19,000 for two business-class seats.
The 787, which is nicknamed The Dreamliner, is neither the fastest nor largest jet on the market. But it is built out of ultra-lightweight materials and promises to dramatically improve airlines' fuel efficiency, a big deal at a time of soaring oil prices.
Boeing is also pitching its 787 as a major upgrade for travelers. It was designed with larger windows, more space in overhead bins and improved lighting. The jet was also designed to provide air pressure and humidity levels that more closely resemble those on the ground, a feature that Boeing says will ease jet lag.
The 787's inaugural flight came more than three and a half years late because Boeing was plagued with manufacturing problems. Parts for the jet are made by 52 suppliers scattered around the globe. And, in a first for Boeing, large sections of the jet are built by these outside vendors and then cobbled together.