Dreamliner debut: A look inside Boeing's first 787-9

Brandon Brown, The Seattle TimesJuly 15, 2014 

Painted black with white wings and a traditional fern design on its tail, the first delivered 787-9 Dreamliner was unveiled last week by Boeing and Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand will be the first airline to fly the new plane, which is scheduled to enter service Oct. 15, on a route from Auckland, New Zealand, to Perth, Australia.

The 787-9 will be used on Air New Zealand's flights to Shanghai and Tokyo as well. Rob McDonald, the carrier's chief financial officer, said it will also enable the airline to open new routes, but he would not give details.

The airline will start to replace its Boeing 767-300 planes with 787-9s, completing the switch by 2016, he said. The company has ordered 10 787-9s and should receive them all by late 2017.

Boeing Vice President Mark Jenks said Air New Zealand, as the launch customer, worked closely with Boeing on both the interior and exterior design of the plane.

"We involved them (Air New Zealand) very early," Jenks said. "Having them there was really fantastic from the development perspective."

Jenks praised Air New Zealand's innovations on the jet's interior, from the seating arrangements to USB ports for passengers' electronic devices.

Inside the 302-seat plane, there are four different seating sectors: Business Premier, Premium Economy, Economy Skycouch and Economy. Each seat comes with a high-definition touch-screen entertainment device.

Business Premier includes a leather armchair that can turn into a lay-down bed with memory-foam mattress.

In the economy section, there are 14 three-seat groupings that can be turned into a flat, sofalike surface that Air New Zealand calls a Skycouch.

The windows on Air New Zealand's 787-9 are 30 percent bigger than the airline's current 767. This allows in more natural light, and passengers can easily see out the windows on the other side of the aircraft.

At 206 feet in length, the 787-9 is 20 feet longer than Boeing's first version, the 787-8. Boeing boasts a 20 percent improvement in fuel efficiency compared with earlier airplanes of similar size.

Through June, Boeing has received 409 orders for the 787-9 from 26 different customers, according to its website. In total, it has 869 unfilled orders for the 787 Dreamliner.

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