I’ve had the privilege of being around for a number of first flights of new airplanes. Back in the 1980s I got to see the 757 and 767 fly for the very first time. And then we had the 777 in the ’90s.
But the 787 first flight was something different for me, as it was for many others here at Boeing.
ZA001 touches down at Boeing Field at the conclusion of first flight.
On this airplane program, I had the opportunity of being there from the beginning – to see us change our focus from the Sonic Cruiser to the 7E7 (as we then called the Dreamliner).
It was not too long after that decision that one of my colleagues, Tom Waggener, and I got to take some of the first 787 presentations to the airlines to get their thoughts. We hit the road and started to talk about the “definition” of the airplane - what the airplane would look like and how it would perform. It was a pretty special time from that perspective. It was the first airplane I actually got a chance to “introduce” to airlines.
I must have been on the road for two straight months, visiting airlines around the world. I think it was something like 10 airlines in 9 days at one point.
On one visit, I recall sitting with the leadership of Shanghai Airlines. This was basically a chalkboard session. They were telling us exactly the size of airplane they needed and how far it needed to fly. These are the kind of things you remember as career highlights.
Our Marketing images - from Sonic Cruiser .. to 7E7 .. to 787 Dreamliner.
Ultimately, in April of 2004, I was traveling in China on other business, and was in my hotel room and sound asleep when the phone rang. The voice on the other end told me the great news: We’d just launched the airplane with an order from ANA!
So, with the Dreamliner, not only did I get a chance to talk directly to customers about the airplane for the first time, but my team at that time also helped develop the document we called “market requirements and objectives.” We defined what the airplane needed to do for the marketplace and then “aspirationally” what Boeing wanted it to do. That was a lot of fun.
And now we have an airplane, and it has taken flight - literally.
787 first flight over western Washington - December 15, 2009.
I think it’s fair to say that with each new Boeing airplane, there’s been a step change. The 777, for example - a really amazing airplane - a twin-engine jetliner that can fly incredibly long distances. We worked hard on the interior of that airplane in every aspect to make it something special.
The 787 Dreamliner is that same kind of step forward. But on a new level.
When some airplane makers design a new product they think, “new features.” But it’s about more than features - it’s about the entire experience. I don’t think our competitor “got” that, right away. As a result, Boeing’s design philosophy for the 787 really caught the industry by surprise.
And now, with first flight in the books, it’s on to the next exciting chapter for the 787 Dreamliner.