The maiden commercial flight of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner in October marked the debut of some of the most dramatic innovations in aircraft construction in decades. Boeing's massive assembly line in Everett, Wash., is cranking out 787s, and a second line is starting up in North Charleston, S.C., as the company sets out to build 10 a month to fill orders for more than 800 of the new jets, upping your chances of flying on the new bird in 2012.
Roughly half the plane's weight is made up of composites, mixes of carbon fiber and epoxy that are lighter than most metals. (The aluminum-based 777 is 12% composites.) Less weight means 20% better fuel efficiency compared with similarly sized planes like the Airbus A330. The cabin has been designed for comfort: better air quality and pressurization mean passengers will be less prone to dehydration, dizziness and headaches. On long hauls, the cabin's LED illumination system can adjust to simulate the change from day to night, and the large windows will be electronically dimmable. A system that detects turbulence and adjusts the wings to counteract it will make for a smoother ride. And while seating may not feel significantly more spacious (the airlines specify the seating they want), the overhead bins are 30% larger than the 777's, allowing each passenger to stow at least one bag--a luxury these days.
The twin-aisle, twin-engine, 210-to-290-passenger jet has a range of up to 8,200 nautical miles. That size-and-distance combo--the distance is roughly equivalent to that from New York City to Hong Kong--is why long-haul specialists such as Etihad, ANA and Korean Air jumped aboard. The 787 may make it more practical for airlines to add more nonstop routes between far-flung nonhub cities. Boeing is projecting that its Dreamliner will eventually open up as many as 450 new city pairs.
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50% composite structure by weight, making the plane lighter than planes with metal airframes
20% more fuel-efficient than the similarly sized Airbus A330
60% smaller environmental-noise footprint, for quieter takeoffs and landings
6,000 Ft. cabin altitude vs. 8,000 ft.; the difference in cabin pressure allows for more oxygen absorption
30% larger overhead bins than the 777's, so you can avoid checked-baggage charges