Boeing's Dreamliner jet on display at Philadelphia International Airport

The curved wings of the Boeing gleam in the sunlight on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport.
The curved wings of the Boeing gleam in the sunlight on the tarmac at Philadelphia International Airport.
Posted: June 29, 2012

Boeing's long-awaited new 787 Dreamliner, touted as the fuel-efficient, passenger-friendly plane of the future, made its first visit to Philadelphia on Wednesday to strut its stuff.

Built largely of graphite fiber and epoxy resin composite materials to be lighter and easier to maintain, the sleek twin-engine, long-range Dreamliner burns less fuel, emits fewer harmful emissions, and offers a cabin designed to better mimic life on earth.

In flight, the passenger compartment is pressurized to simulate 6,000 feet above sea level, compared with the current standard of 8,000 feet. That, coupled with higher cabin humidity and better air filtering, should make travelers feel less parched and fatigued at the end of a long journey, Boeing engineers say.

Other features for passengers include larger overhead luggage bins and bigger cabin windows that can be dimmed electronically.

Some of Boeing's 8,000 local employees in Ridley Park were key players in the plane's design and testing, and many of them were invited to Wednesday's tour of the Dreamliner, parked at Philadelphia International Airport. Local officials and the media also got a glimpse of the new plane, which flew in from Seattle on Tuesday afternoon.

The plane was delayed for years in final design and testing, but Boeing officials said Wednesday that the plane is selling better than any predecessor.

Boeing has orders for 859 Dreamliners from 58 airlines; so far, 13 have been delivered, to All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines. Boeing said it will increase production from the current 3.5 planes per month to 10 per month by late 2013. The plane is being assembled at plants in Everett, Wash., and Charleston, S.C.

No 787s are in scheduled service to Philadelphia; several airlines that serve Philadelphia, including United, Delta, and British Airways, have placed orders for the new Boeing plane.

The first version, the 787-8, accommodates 210 to 250 passengers, depending on the seating configuration, and sells for $193.5 million. A larger 787-9 will hold 250 to 290 passengers and sells for $227.8 million.

Boeing hopes to market the Dreamliner as a plane that can make long trips but carry passenger loads for midsize airports — such as Philadelphia's.

"Philadelphia is the kind of market this is optimized for," said Richard Wynne, director of sales for Boeing. "You'll definitely see the 787 in Philadelphia sometime soon."

The plane that was in town on Wednesday is the third Dreamliner built. Known as ZA003, it is already a seasoned traveler, having visited Australia, New Zealand, Uzbekistan, and Morocco in the last month on Boeing's "Dream Tour" to show the plane to airline representatives, government officials, suppliers, and Boeing employees.

Mike Bryan, the Seattle-based pilot who flew ZA003 to Philadelphia and who has logged more than 1,000 flight hours in the Dreamliner, said the craft is a smart, sophisticated plane to fly.

"If you lose an engine, it automatically maintains level flight," he said.

The plane is designed to cruise at about 630 m.p.h., as fast as the larger Boeing 747. It is built to provide long-haul flights in a midsize plane, with a range of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles, and the 787-9 is expected to have a range of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles.

As fuel costs have risen to become airlines' biggest expense, Boeing hopes to capitalize on the 787's relative thriftiness: It burns 20 percent less fuel than its predecessor, the 767.

Contact Paul Nussbaum at 215-854-4587 or pnussbaum@phillynews.com.

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