August 2012

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The quirks and questions of All Nippon's first 787

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All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner JA801A ZA101

With the final days of 787 flight testing with Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 Package A engines coming this weekend, ANA's first 787, ZA101, has moved from the Everett Modification Center (EMC) - formerly ATS Factory South - to the fuel dock for fuel system checkouts, a sign of the aircraft's coming first flight. The 264-seat aircraft will undergo "first of model" evaluations ahead of its delivery to ANA in September.

The aircraft was officially unveiled (video) in a ceremony in Everett last weekend, but after a week of bouncing around I'm finally getting to posting some thoughts on this first 787's notable tidbits. This page did a preliminary look at the interior of the domestically configured aircraft in July, but this was the first opportunity go get hands-on with ANA's first 787.

All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner JA801A ZA101

A View From The E Seat
The 787's windows are huge. That's short answer. The longer answer is that they're probably going to transform the personality of commercial aircraft cabins forever. The amount of light that was able to come into the cabin with the 18in-tall windows was noticeably different than those on the 777. Unlike the A380, which has a very thick sidewall setting the window farther back from the passenger, the 787 window is frame is only slightly larger than the external pane. The amount of light let in by the window was so significant that it actually served to mute some of the overhead LED lights that were illuminating the cabin. 

Of course, one of the most novel parts of the 787's new cabin are the windows, which do not feature window shades, but rather a button at their base to electrically dim the window until at various levels, all the way to 99% opacity. As they transition, the windows at half-tint have almost a green-blue glow to them, reaching full darkness in just over a minute as shown in the video below.

Flight attendants will be able to centrally control the minimum opacity of the windows, preventing passengers from "opening" their window fully as not to interfere with other passengers. This is great for cabin courtesy, less so for in-flight photography.

A year from now, it will be interesting to see how reliable the shade buttons are in service and how frequently they are being replaced - if at all. With 787 the only aircraft with electro-chromatic glass, the technology will remain a novelty in comparison to the traditional window shade for a long time to come, prompting passengers to put it to use more than they would a normal shade. Boeing has said the window itself has a expected lifetime of 20 years or 70,000 cycles, but it's not clear how long that button will survive the unforgiving public.

Also, because the default un-powered setting for the window leaves them clear, an aircraft parked on a remote stand or left unpowered at the gate on a hot day may create a very uncomfortable cabin before external air conditioning or internal packs are running. Closing the window shades has always been a good method for keeping aircraft cabins cooler in hot weather while they wait, no such option is available for 787.

An Aircraft's Identity Theft (Re-Appropriation)
The wings and fuselage of ZA101 are emblazoned with the registration JA801A, the long assigned tail number had always been intended for ANA's first 787. However, after shuffling the completion priority coupled with ZA100, Airplane Seven's role as a proverbial parts depot for the flight test fleet, Airplane Eight jumped to the fore. The legacy of this switch is still evident on ZA101. On the aircraft's primary flight display, one-third of the panel is devoted to displaying auxiliary information, such as universal time and elapsed time, flight number, the aircraft's SELCAL code and the tail number. While the skin of ZA102 may read JA801A, its brain still thinks it's JA802A.

The Window Gap Solution
When Boeing's main rival looked at the 787 design, Airbus noted that the center fuselage joins to the forward an aft sections created a window gap, saying in its Dreamliner Dossier: "Affected passengers may not be happy!"

To look at it from the other side - inside the cabin - it appears ANA has its seats laid out in a way that completely nullifies the window gap resulting from the join. In the forward part of the aircraft, it appears the gap is now behind the lavatories that sit just forward of Door 2.
The seat back is in line with the join itself, setting the windowless area directly next to the seat with the window set far forward, almost shared with the row to the front. 

787-WindowGap.jpgA Change in the Safety Announcement
One (thankfully) unseen part of the first 787's cabin was the emergency oxygen system that drops from the overhead passenger service units in the event of change in cabin pressure. On today's aircraft you hear this during the standard safety announcement:
In the event of a cabin pressure, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. 
There's something different about the 787 system. There's no bag on the mask. The gaseous pulse oxygen system by B/E Aerospace is designed to deliver oxygen to the passenger on demand each time a breath is taken, rather than a continuous flow. Boeing expects that there will be a change in the standard announcement to ensure passengers aren't concerned by the lack of the familiar non-inflating bag.

Have Stinger Will Travel
At the end of June, I wrote of a coming APU tail cone design change that would soon be appearing on the production 787 fleet. JA801A confirmed the existence of the change on production aircraft and provided the first up-close view of the "stinger". While the modification changes the personality of the 787's once-clean tail cone, the stinger provides much-needed wicking for leaking fuel that was pooling and torching out the back of the cone.

All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 Dreamliner JA801A ZA101

And now the full complement of photos...

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