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B-787 experimental visits AirVenture 2011
By DAVE HIGDON
See the photo gallery

Dreamliner arrival
Grace in the airspace. With her smooth wings bowed skyward Friday, Boeing's 787 dwarfs other AirVenture traffic waiting to depart as she arrives on Runway 36. Photo by Stefan Seville
Dreamline inside
Work liner. The interior of Boeing's first 787 Dreamliner shows off some of the tools of the test-program trade in which serial number ZA001 has been engaged since late 2009. Photo by Dave Higdon
Dreamliner Arrival
The Boeing 787 arrived at AirVenture on Friday morning. Photo by Andrew Zaback

When Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner prototype landed at AirVenture Friday morning, the word “Experimental” adorning a number of prominent spots, many of its ancestors in composite experimental aircraft watched silently from nearby, progenitors with names like EZ and Catbird and Quickie, seeming to nod a welcome to this newcomer in carbon-fiber composites.

Nearby, Starship—the patriarch of certificated composite airplanes—also watched as the junior member rolled past.

And once Boeing achieves the final approval to deliver 787s absent the experimental designation, this one’s descendants will be gracing ramps of the world for decades to come.

Friday it graced ConocoPhillips Plaza on its first showing in the United States, giving the public its first opportunity to see this giant twin up close and personal.

With a crushing crowd close by, the ramp crew eased ZA001 into place ahead of a patient driver’s efforts to maneuver an air stair to the port-side forward door in preparation for daylong tours of the interior.

A wide-body wonder
Constructed primarily of carbon-fiber composites, the 787 sports the newest of turbofan engines, this one Rolls-Royce’s new Trent 1000, with new-GEnx versions also available.

The cockpit is “a smorgasbord” of state-of-the-art gear from familiar names like Honeywell and Rockwell Collins. Dual head-up displays allow both captain and first officer to benefit from the through-the-screen flight instrument technology.

Dual electronic flight bags will relieve those aviators from the back-straining load of paper charts and the mind-numbing ordeal of filing the 28-day updates indigenous to the world of airline pilots.

Inside ZA001, banks of test equipment and data recorders run up the middle of the expansive cabin, and water-ballast tanks plumbed to load and unload valves took up space where the port and starboard seat rows would be in a first-class cabin.

Outside, the sleek and curvaceous surfaces of wings and empennage reflect the wonders of composite construction discovered decades ago by legions of EAA members and builders.

This first prototype, flown to AirVenture by EAA member Mike Wittaker and an all-EAA flight crew, will forever remain a Boeing test bed, flight-test gear shifted and altered as needed long after certificated copies begin plying the airways.

In the coming months scores of passenger-ready versions awaiting delivery in Everett, Washington, will begin flying airways long flown by the composite experimental aircraft of EAA members.

And for years to come the Dreamliner will pass on to future generations the miracles of composites and the continuing wonder of air travel.


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