Giants In The Sky
September 22, 2013

Giants In The Sky

Way back in 1905, when Wilbur and Orville Wright created the first airplane and successfully flew their groundbreaking invention, I doubt they could have ever imagined a world where giants like the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner soared through the heavens. Compared to their first, one-manned airplane, which had a successful, albeit short, maiden flight, the enormous airliners we have in our skies today are like things out of fantasy. The 787-9 is Boeing’s newest airliner. Sitting at 197 feet across, 206 feet long, more than 20 feet longer than its predecessor, the 787-8, the 787-9 is one of the largest planes in our skies to date. This past Tuesday, September 17, 2013, the 787-9 made its maiden voyage, a five-hour, sixteen-minute flight in which this massive craft reached an altitude of 20,400 feet and speeds of up to 288 miles per hour.

The 787-9 was designed using new production methods that make it more efficient than previous models. Compared to the 787-8, the 787-9 can carry up to 290 passengers as opposed to 250. Moreover, the 787-9 uses carbon fiber composites, instead of the more commonly used aluminum. Not only does this make this giant of a craft lighter, only 553,000 pounds at maximum possible take-off weight, but it can fly and estimated 300 nautical miles farther than the 787-8 while using 20 percent less fuel. Adding all of these factors together (greater passenger capacity, further range, less fuel consumption) makes the 787-9 is a much more appealing craft to airlines than Boeing’s previous models.

However, the newest Dreamliner did have a number of complications early on that threatened to cancel plans to have it take to the sky. It was grounded for four months after the Federal Aviation Administration noted problems with the lithium ion batteries back in January. These issues were causing smoke and fire hazards within the plane. Earlier this summer, All Nippon Airways noted wireless issues with the 787-9’s fire extinguisher system in the engines. Both of these could have caused major catastrophes if there were not caught and dealt with early, but they also set back the plans for the 787-9 a great deal, raising the initial cost of production. Still, despite all of these setbacks, the 787-9’s test flight was a success, and there are already plans for Air Zealand to be the first to use one of these new models sometime in the summer of 2014.

For as long as mankind has looked up at the sky, we have dreamed of flight. We watch birds with envy, admiring both their freedom and their defiance of gravity. Since the days of Leonardo da Vinci, mankind has worked to make that dream possible using one of the greatest advantages we have; technology. From hot-air balloons and zeppelins to modern airlines like the 787-9 Dreamliner, humanity has come to master the skies above, just like we have always hoped to. Manned flight has come a long way in the last century, and with the successful maiden flight of Boeings new giant, we have taken yet another step forward.

Image Credit: Boeing

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