Boeing's 787 Dreamliner makes its commercial debut today with an inaugural Tokyo-Hong Kong flight by Japan's ANA.
(Among the passengers will be the winner of an eBay auction who bid A$32,700 for two business-class seats on the flight.)
If you're eager for an inside look at the next-gen jetliner, here's a 'virtual photo tour' of ANA's factory-fresh 787 which we snapped during Boeing's launch of the Dreamliner in Seattle.
When we toured the aircraft as guests of Boeing it was so shiny and new that it didn't even have scratches, bird poo or smashed bugs on the windscreen.
ANA's first Dreamliner is configured for regional use rather than long-haul flights. This means a small business class cabin which has recliner-style seats rather than fully lie-flat beds.
As we've previously reported, Boeing doesn't expect any airlines to outfit their 787 Dreamliners with first class; the most common configuration will be business and economy, or (especially in the stretched 787-9 version) business, premium economy and economy.
Boeing's Miles Kotay and a new-found friend from ANA sample the seats at the 787's pointy end.
Directly behind the business class area is a small cabin with the first three rows of 252 economy seats.
In ANA's international configuration this cabin will also be given over to business class...
... which makes sense because just in front is a self-serve bar area.
Further down the plane are, well, more economy seats. Lots more.
These are arrayed in a 2-4-2 layout – two seats by either window and four in the middle.
Boeing says that "by far and away" the most common economy configuration which airlines are ordering is 2-5-2 – that's right, five seats jammed together in the centre of the plane.
Sucks to be the person in the very middle seat.
Airlines are also settling on 31-32 inches of seat pitch in the 787's economy cabin, Boeing tells us.
That's not too bad if the seats are the new slim-line models which perform natty tricks like move the magazine rack to the top of the seat in front instead of down low – the slimmer profile and relocated rack both serve to boost legroom (and crucially, 'knee room') more than you'd expect from the same pitch on more conventional seat design.
The Dreamliner also has exceptionally large windows, which are set lower into the plane.
At 46cm (18 inches) tall and 28cm (11 inches) wide, they're around 40-60% larger than the windows of conventional passenger aircraft, to afford better views for everyone (not just the person in the window seat) and an increase in natural light inside the cabin.
There's also electronic window dimming, which polarises tiny crystals inside the windows to gradually darken the window at the press of a button.
In the photo below, the window closest to the camera is set to around 20% opacity, which corresponds to the first LED of five on the passenger's push-button control.
From right to left we've set these four windows at the digital equivalents of 'fully open' through to 'fully closed'.
The transition from open to closed takes around one minute, and even the darkest setting still lets some light in. “It’s like being in a limo with tinted windows”, a Boeing spokesman told us.
Cabin crew can set the brightness level of all windows, such as ‘opening’ the windows for landing or dimming them during a flight, although passengers still retain a narrow band of control to make the window around 10% brighter without flooding your seatmates with a harsh burst of light.
From tip to tail, the 787 sports the modern Boeing Sky Interior cabin design which we’re starting to see on domestic 737-800s from Virgin Australia and Qantas.
This means that passengers on board the Dreamliner will enjoy benefits such as larger and easier to use luggage bins with more headroom, and adjustable LED ‘mood lighting’.
Cabin crew can control the lighting level and colour throughout the plane, or in each 'zone' of the cabin, as well as dialling in pre-set modes for take-off, serving meals and even tracking through an overnight flight so that the interior lighting mimics a gradual sunset and sunrise.
Also in AusBT's Boeing 787 Dreamliner coverage:
- Qantas brings Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Australia in November
- Photos: inside the Boeing 787's funky crew rest 'loft'
- Boeing’s 787 nixes first class for business, premium economy
- Why business travellers will love the Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Flying in a Boeing 787 Dreamliner: first real-life video
- Photos & video: Inside the first ANA Boeing 787 Dreamliner
- Boeing chooses Android for 787 Dreamliner's entertainment system
- Qantas does the 787 shuffle
- United aims for first Boeing 787 Dreamliner flights by mid-2012