Photos: designing your own Boeing 787 at the Dreamliner Gallery

By Chris C., March 3 2015
Photos: designing your own Boeing 787 at the Dreamliner Gallery

Have a spare $200 million lying around for a shiny new Boeing 787? Then you'd better start packing for your trip to Everett in Washington: home of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner Gallery, or what we've dubbed the 'Harvey Norman' for aircraft buyers.

Here, you can choose everything from your lounge chairs, kitchens and TVs – excuse us... seats, galleys and inflight entertainment – through to lighting, lavatories and which 'wallpaper' you'd prefer.

Join Australian Business Traveller as we take a behind-the-scenes look at Boeing's Dreamliner Gallery: a venue normally restricted to airline representatives, private jet buyers and their personal assistants.

Leading our tour is Dreamliner Gallery Technical Director Mark Larson, who starts by demonstrating the 787's 'electrochromic' windows:

At the touch of a button, they begin transitioning from light to dark – avoiding the need for traditional window shades that can break, get stuck or fall down unexpectedly.

Larson also points out that replacing a faulty electrochromic window is a "five minute job" for an airline's maintenance staff, rather than having to remove seats and aircraft interior panels to physically access and repair a regular shade.

First comes passenger seating and inflight entertainment, where airlines can view different styles of aircraft seats in formation.

Using tracks built into the floor, these easily slide closer together or further apart – allowing airline reps to experience the legroom and personal space for themselves in various configurations before committing to any one design.

The same can be done with business class, where we spotted a base model of the Zodiac Cirrus seat used by a number of airlines including Cathay Pacific:

You're then free to choose your inflight entertainment options within the constraints of your particular seats.

Various manufacturers have displays here that resemble a consumer electronics store, including Panasonic and Thales:

Then it's time to see how your creation looks and feels in a mockup aircraft cabin – first by marking the space that your chosen seats would occupy...

... and then by installing them. Here we see a sample premium economy set-up...

... while the back two rows are configured as economy, inflight entertainment and all.

When we likened the facility to your local Harvey Norman, we weren't kidding – there's a long line of ovens, microwaves, espresso machines and the more traditional 'cawfee' makers to choose from.

These all slot into place in the life-sized galley, which Boeing can power up for hands-on ergonomic testing.

Cabin crew still need to communicate over the humming of the appliances and the aircraft's background noise, so these can also be trialled in a more realistic kitchen area, complete with a noise emulator that can be adjusted to mimic the sounds heard in any part of the aircraft.

You'll have a final chance to try everything out in the mock Dreamliner cabin, including in the passenger entryway if you choose to stick a galley there as well.

Not to be forgotten: the lavatories, with these and several more choices available depending on which is best-suited to the cabin layout and passenger count.

We opened the door to see if they were just to-scale shells, yet Boeing has kitted them out and even connected the mirror and overhead lighting to match exactly what you'd see on board.

Like the seats, your chosen lavatories are lined up for a final check of any spacing issues or other concerns, before one is ever fitted to an actual aircraft.

Next on the agenda: the overall look and feel of the passenger cabin, achieved mostly through tweaks to the lighting, fabrics and colours used on-board.

Today's larger airlines will often retain their existing colour palate when switching to the Dreamliner, although newer airlines and those open to ideas can browse various patterns and colour schemes at their leisure.

We're told that British customers frequently gravitate towards the blues, UAE-based airlines tend to stick to more nature-driven earth tones and those seeking a more 'modern, new-age' image often prefer brighter and bolder colours beyond the blues and browns.

Whatever the choice, you'll find it waiting for you in a half-cabin mockup – conveniently located next to the fabric room should you quickly change your mind.

In the cabin, engineers can road-test a series of lighting programmes and transition effects, while airlines can design their own in great detail while seated as a passenger holding the fabric they've chosen.

There are also eight distinct yet subtle wall textures to choose from, which each display and reflect the cabin lights a little differently.

[Click on the image above to zoom in and compare textures.]

Your lighting and texture preferences then transfer across to the full cabin mockup for any fine-tuning...

... before bringing in the seats for one final test, signing on the dotted line and waiting for your finished aircraft to arrive at the gate.

Stay behind the scenes: Inside Boeing's 787 Dreamliner factory

Chris Chamberlin was a guest of Boeing.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

25 Jul 2013

Total posts 67

Wow! Thanks for sharing, this is amazing.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 May 2013

Total posts 25

PIMP MY 787!!!!!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2207

That sounds like a hilarious game you could play, where you get to customise your very own 787.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Feb 2012

Total posts 9

Love it!! Wish Virgin Australia will order something new soon!!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 Oct 2013

Total posts 703

Thanks Chris, great article

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 698

There is no substitute for hands-on, almost real life testing. Very expensive to have buyer's remorse when it's out on your tarmac.

25 Jan 2012

Total posts 29

That's incredible.. i figured they would have samples and computer mockups. But entire cabins.. wow.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

13 Jan 2015

Total posts 588

It's changed a little bit since I went there in 2011.  If i'm correct isn't there a place where you can climb into a full mockup of the crew rest area?  Also, in the cabin mockup i remember what they called 'premium economy' (2-4-2) was smaller seats than SQ eco.

Did you get a look in the 747 and 737 mockups?  I liked how they actually made the 747 a proper 2 storey model with a cosy VVIP layout on the top deck.

When looking at the 737 cabin mockup, I remember it had a mirror in the back to make it look bigger, however the Airbus mockup in toulouse had pretty much the full cabin length of the A320

24 Apr 2012

Total posts 2453

Hi elchriss0,

Correct – there are also rooms at the Gallery for customising the crew rest and the flight deck, although as this is a 'live' facility, we weren't able to visit these areas as they were being used by Boeing's airline customers during our visit.

This was a trip focussed exclusively on the Dreamliner, so no peeking at the other aircraft this time around.

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