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Boeing Rolls Out the 787 Dreamliner; New Jet Offers 20% Reduction in Fuel Consumption

The 787 makes its debut. Click to enlarge.

Boeing rolled out the first 787 Dreamliner—the first of its new family of mid-size commercial jetliners, the first with composite material primary structures—on Sunday. The version making the debut was the 787-8. With a passenger capacity of 210 to 250 and a range of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles (14,200 to 15,200 kilometers), the 787-8 will use 20% less fuel than any other current airplane of its size.

Boeing has already committed to a 787-3 version optimized for shorter routes, and the 787-9, a slightly longer version of the airplane that will carry more people on longer range flights. ANA and Japan Airlines have ordered 43 787-3s for domestic operations in Japan. Deliveries of this model will start in early 2010. Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Continental, and Qantas are among the 11 customers with orders for 115 787-9s.

A still-to-be-defined 787-10 will follow by around 2013. The 787 Dreamliner has become the fastest-selling commercial airplane in history. As of 7 July, Boeing had logged 677 orders from 47 customers for the 787, with Air Berlin posting the final pre-rollout order for 25. Overall, the 787 Dreamliner order book is currently valued at more than $110 billion.

The 787 makes extensive use of composites. Click to enlarge.

The new aircraft features a number of new design features including the extensive use of composites instead of aluminum for 50% of the primary structure of the plane—including the fuselage and wing. The main material is graphite combined with a toughened epoxy resin. The wings also use a titanium/graphite composite.

Building the fuselage from one-piece composite components (fuselage barrels) eliminates 1,500 aluminum sheets and 40,000 - 50,000 fasteners, according to Boeing.

The 787 uses one-piece composite fuselage barrels. Click to enlarge.

Boeing anticipates increasing the composite content to 60% in coming versions. The reduced weight due to the use of composites contributes to the reduction in fuel consumption and to the reduction in noise.

Key system technologies featured in the 787 include:

  • Common core open systems architecture;

  • Advanced flight controls and an enhanced flight deck;

  • Power electronics cooling system;

  • Electric, rather than hydraulic, brakes;

  • HID/LED lighting;

  • Onboard maintenance system;

  • No-bleed systems architecture; and

  • Next-generation engines.

Engines. GE and RollsRoyce are the designated engine suppliers for the 787. Each engine maker is delivering a new generation of engine for the 787: the GEnx from GE and the Trent 1000 from RollsRoyce. The launch 787 is equipped with the RollsRoyce engines.

Producing a range of thrusts from 53,000 - 75,000 lb, a single version of the Trent 1000 will be certified to power all variants of the 787, the 787–8, 787-3 and 787-9. ANA will begin operating the 787-8 in mid-2008 and will also introduce the short-range 787-3 variant in 2010. Air New Zealand will launch the 787-9 into service, also in 2010.

GE’s GEnx, which Boeing has also selected for the 747-8 version, has tested to 80,500 lb. of thrust. The engine features a front fan case and fan blades made of composites and a unique combustor called the Twin Annular, Pre-mixing Swirler (TAPS) combustor for enhanced NOx reduction.

In TAPS, air from the high-pressure compressor is directed into the combustor through two high-energy swirlers adjacent to the fuel nozzles. This swirl creates a more homogeneous and leaner mix of fuel and air, which burns at lower temperatures than in previous jet engine designs.

The lower temperatures generated in the TAPS combustor results in significantly lower NOx levels. For example, at comparative thrust levels, GEnx NOx emissions will be more than 30% lower than the NOx emissions of GE’s highly popular CF6 engines powering commercial widebody aircraft today. The GEnx emissions goal at entry into service is to be about 50% below the new NOx limits to be established in 2008.

The 787 offers reduced fuel consumption. Click to enlarge.

Fuel consumption. The combination of new materials, increased electrification, design and engines all lead to the expected reduction in operation fuel consumption of 20% compared to current aircraft of a comparable size.

Boeing calculates that the 787 will deliver fuel consumption of approximately 2.4 l/100 passenger-kilometers, assuming average modal load factors.

In its 2002 report, The Environmental Effects of Civil Aircraft in Flight, the UK’s Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution (RCEP) noted that in terms of fuel use:

Allowing for the effects...leading to a factor of around 3 [times greater] in the radiative forcing of carbon dioxide from aircraft compared to terrestrial transport, travelling by air is broadly equivalent to one or two people travelling in a passenger car. The Commission has already pointed out in its Eighteenth and Twentieth Reports that passenger cars are more environmentally damaging than any other form of surface transport. The comparisons presented here show that air transport is in the same category, albeit with a much better safety record.

One of the concerns voiced about the advent of the new, more fuel-efficient aircraft (as well as its apparent popularity, as orders are outpacing analysts’ earlier projections) is the potential for a “rebound effect” similar to that seen with increases in fuel efficiency in light-duty vehicles—i.e., the decrease in fuel consumption (and thus, operating costs) leads to an increase in vehicle miles travelled.



Bud Johns

The last paragraph makes little sense to me. So should they eliminate the 20% gain in fuel consumption to discourage longer trips?? Really now.....


Ya, you've got to be wondering who's voicing those concerns, and how brain dead they really are.
This 20% reduction is huge, I can't until I get to fly on one of these.

Bud & Brad: It is just about impossible to improve anything w/o critics voicing concerns about what might happen.

The critics always know what should have been done instead. They would have done it right.... er, except they actually haven't done it.


There is a move afoot to mix jet fuel with bio-stuff. Currently the Air Force is running trials using a B-52.
Assuming CHG warming is a reality and the bio-mix will reduce the CO2 in airplane turbines without poisoning the air with some other gas of concern, we are going the right way. Now Boeing has rolled out an aircraft that will save 20% in fuel. This efficiency increase and the use of a clean bio fuel is huge in any attempt to reduce GHGs and foreign oil.

What could be better? An electric airliner you say?


How true regarding critics. I'd love to see what projected savings specific airlines can give if say 25% of their fleet became these newer more efficient models over the next 5 years. I imagine the savings per year would be astronomical. Maybe I could get a sandwich on a flight for less than $7 then. Showing the savings could be a good incentive for companies in other transportation fields to do the same.


Of course the last paragraph makes sense. The concern is with the rebound effect. The idea is if fuel costs are reduced 20% and those savings are passed through to consumers, consumers will fly more because of lower costs hence the emissions savings are negated. This is all assuming the end consumer sees lower prices. Given the financial state of US based carriers, they're more likely to pad their bottom line than pass on the savings. With increasing oil prices the 20% savings will be needed to just maintain current pricing.


I remember there was a proposal for the Dreamliner to have a electric propulsion systems when on the ground (electric motor in front wheel) to eliminate the need run the engines on the ground and to eliminate the need for a taxi. What ever happened to that idea?


Awesome Boeing! Now if only the US automobile industry will build desirable, lighter, safer vehicles with 20% lower fuel consumption and pollution.

I'm waiting on baited breath for GM's Volt.

Build them, and they will be bought!

hampden wireless

Assuming passengers switch more to air travel due to this plane..... that would not be bad if they were getting out of cars or SUV's with a single passenger and into this plane. It would only be bad if they were getting out of a more efficient mode of transport like train or bus.


re:I remember there was a proposal for the Dreamliner to have a electric propulsion systems when on the ground (electric motor in front wheel) to eliminate the need run the engines on the ground and to eliminate the need for a taxi. What ever happened to that idea?

This was done, most of the infrastructure in the 787 is electric. On ground taxi-ing can be done via electric motors. The 787 has larger batteries then previous planes and the engines double as very efficient and higher power electric generators.



As bluegreen says, the rebound effect is very real. It's not being used as a reason to not improve fuel economy, simply cautioning that the carbon savings will not be 20% due to the reasons outlined above. Carbon savings should always take into account the rebound effect but it rarely happens.

Anon: it'll all be down to weight. The aircraft manufacturers come up with all sorts of whizzbang ideas for their new designs (compare the early dreamliner designs with what was produced and the nose and tail are dramatically different) but as the weight budget starts to get squeezed it's these newer and non-essential technologies that get the boot.

Rafael Seidl

"... travelling by air is broadly equivalent to one or two people travelling in a passenger car"

Only true on a per-mile basis and only if the plane is reaonably full. Frequent fliers clock a lot more miles in the sky than they do on the ground each year.


Still, the pervasive use of carbon fiber composites is an engineering breakthrough for Boeing. The more important point is that the lower operating cost will allow airlines to offer more non-stop direct flights between secondary cities. Avoiding regional hubs not only reduces trip time and the risk of delays/missed connection/lost baggage but also the total number of miles the passengers need to cover to reach their destinations. Therefore, provided such flights are reasonably full, total fuel savings should exceed 20%.


Good that they can improve efficiency. (consumer prices will NOT go down, our airlines are hurting and need the better operating margin.)

Bad that they import 90% of the parts for this thing. Boeing used to be 100% American. The CEO that moved them to this and "saved the company"? Well he's at Ford now, isn't he?



Yes, it's a shame that jobs went overseas. But the world has changed. If Boeing had kept all that work in the US the plane wouldn't have had such incredible buy-in from countries that got those jobs, e.g., Japan. Airbus didn't give up as many jobs, and now Boeing is once again overtaking them in sales.

The US auto companies will have to do the same thing to be competitive. Aircraft and autos are both global industries.

Stan Peterson

Did you even read the Boeing addition to this article that showed realistic specific fuel consumption for various methods of transportation with typical load factors.

Your favorite other transit choices like trains was 3.8 L/100km (This actually sucks in comparison to a efficient private car). But the 787 has a specific fuel consumption of 2.4 L/100km. That is an IMPROVEMENT of 63% over a train. Your other favorite, the Bus would be much worse than the train in specific fuel consumption. (I estimate greater than 20 L/100km.) The large conventional sedan is around 6 L/100km although many cars produced today that are aiming for sub 4 L/100km.

Pining for 1870s train technology to get the masses off the roads, to allow for their Green master's limousines unimpeded movement, just won't cut it. Anymore than the Socialist nomenklatura were able to maintain the private auto and freeway lanes for their own VIP Nomenklatura exclusive use, when the old Soviet Union collapsed.

Stan Peterson

The interesting discussion is just how efficient air travel can become. The other discussion is whether the world can find an air transport method that reduces or eliminates the need for fossil fuels.

It is clear that both maritime and ground transport are finding or creating suitable fossil fuel substitutes. But what about air transport?

In the meantime, Efficiency is its own Reward.

In reading the discussion of the improved generation of turbine combustors, I was struck hydrocarbon output was actually sacrificed to reduce NOx generation. So there does appear that there are yet additional improvements that can be made.

Is it possible that Urea or NH3 injection will allow the complete combustion of the hydrocarbons? Or perhaps tailored aviation fuels with such materials included?


Interesting mix of composites. I was looking at the little picture that shows where each is used. The engine mounts appear as yellow and they don't state what that is... balsa wood, paper mache?

John Schreiber

Thank you Stan,
You saved me a lot of keystrokes.
On the surface I am not sure your numbers are correct, though.
A car that gets 6L/100KM is more efficient than the 787 when there are 4 people in it: 1.5L/100km.
Trains on the other hand are approaching 600 seat miles per gallon in Japan. .392L/100km
However these calculations discount the value of time, and the inability to cross oceans in more efficient vehicles. The 787 is a very very good engineering exercise.

Mike McCarthy

John S. - -

"The 787 is a very very good engineering exercise."

It's a good engineering exercise, but eventually, with rising fuel costs, even Boeing may decide to go to the next big thing - the blended wing-body (BWB), which promises an even larger increase in efficiency. Sadly, the BWB's snail-like development is currently slogging thru on Boeing's military side. The Brits have taken a 'detour to silence' with their devt of a BWB (Google: "Silent Aircraft"), compromising some efficiency gains to make the BWB stealthily quiet. When the Brits realize the impact of rising fuel costs, maybe their BWB will compete with Boeing's on efficiency. But both of them better get their act in gear or commercial avaition will end with $10 jet fuel and the tube-and-wing planes grounded in the desert...


Hello there!

It is amazing to read all of these comments by you guys! It may sound crazy. However, personally i think you guys can get pay a lot of money for having a critical thinking job within a great position in the Boeing company. Please think about it. And trust me, í´m serious. All of your ideas can actually come together to improve their company beyond recognition. Anyway, I´m just a passanger, who loves to travel. And I have a feeling that technology along with great thinking from people like you all, will take us in a great positive path into a visionary, efficient, convinient, and healthier future.

God Bless you Guys!

World Passenger
[email protected]

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