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Wall Street Journal Article - "Boeing's New Baby"

Wed Nov 19, 2003 12:34 am

Today's (18 Nov.) Wall Street Journal has a fantastic article about the new 7E7, complete with the same cabin mock-up pictures as posted in the other thread here...

Boeing's New Baby
Its 7E7 'Dreamliner' Jet Would Offer 'Mood Lighting,' Big Windows, Entry Rotunda

By J. Lynn Lunsford

Boeing hopes the interior of its planned new airplane, the 7E7 "Dreamliner," will breathe a little romance back into air travel - or at least make flying a little less uncomfortable.

How about a foyer with a 10-foot ceiling just inside the main entry door? Or windows large enough for passengers to see outside without contorting in their seats? Or lighted ceiling panels that create the illusion that you are looking at the sky?

Boeing Co. in recent days has unveiled a mock-up of how it believes the airplane cabin of the future should look and feel. The jet maker says it plans to use lights, electronics and what one designer called "forehead-slapping" discoveries to help give its newest plane a leg up on the successful A330 from its chief competitor, Europe's Airbus. It also hopes the airplane can help remove some of the stress associated with negotiating airports today.

"We have lots of nasty adjectives to describe our door-to-door experience of air travel, but 'welcome' is not one of them," said Klaus Brauer, Boeing's director of passenger revenue development.

Working with psychologists and armed with several years' worth of passenger-comfort studies, Mr. Brauer and a team of more than a dozen people spent the past 18 months working on the 32-foot-long mock-up that depicts both a first class and coach cabin. Lately, the company has begun showing it to airlines that would be potential customers of the 200-seat jet. Customers will have a choice of carpet, seats, lavatories and kitchens, but the new architecture would be an integral part of the new plane.

The 7E7 program, projected to cost about $7 billion, is expected to be officially approved by Boeing's board in December. Boeing says the airplane would likely enter service in 2008 and would be aimed at replacing more than 2,500 aging Boeing 757 and 767 jetliners, as well as aging Airbus A300s and A330s. Boeing envisions offering up to three versions of the plane, one capable of flying 18 hours, roughly long enough to go nonstop from New York to Hong Kong.

Although its main selling point has been a 20% increase in efficiency (the E in the 7E7 stands for Efficient) over any plane flying, Boeing executives hope the buzz generated by the new interior could help create demand despite a slump in the world-wide aviation market.

So far, potential buyers have been generally impressed, although none have signed on as launch customers. "I think Boeing has now raised the bar," says Peter Gardner, a vice president for Cathay Pacific Airlines, after a two-day customer conference in Seattle last week.

Airbus says it isn't concerned. It is launching its own ambitious new aircraft called A380, a double-decker behemoth that will be the largest passenger plane ever. "Clearly we would expect Boeing to come out with some kind of eye-popping view of their new airplane," says spokesman David Venz. "The real test will be whether the 7E7 can make an airline more money than the A330 will. We believe that is a debatable question."

Instead of having entry doors that lead directly into unsightly flight kitchens like those on most wide-bodies airplanes, the main door of the 7E7 opens into an oval-shaped rotunda whose roof is lit in such a way that it seems 20 feet high. "The idea is to sever the psychic connection to one place - in this case, the airport - and welcome the passenger to the experience of flying," Mr. Brauer says.

Like the 777, the ceiling of the 7E7 would use arched panels to help create the illusion of space, but this time with a twist: Instead of neutral-colored plastic panels lit by fluorescent lights, the 7E7 panels would be made of screens that are illuminated by light-emitting-diodes and treated to make it difficult for the eye to focus on them. A similar technology is used by Virgin Atlantic in the premium cabin on some of its new Airbus A340's, and Emirates Airline planes to install it on some long-haul Airbus jets as well, but Boeing is the first manufacturer to make this mood-lighting standard throughout the plane.

At night, the lights could be darkened from sky-blue to deeper colors to make it easier for passengers to sleep. During meals, flight attendants could dial in a bit of red to make the meat on passengers' plates more appealing. "Fluorescent lights do nothing for food," Mr. Brauer says.

Baggage bins, which are routinely criticized for being too small and not in the right place, have been redesigned in the 7E7 to hold one large carry-on and one briefcase-size carry-on for each passenger. In some configurations, the bins would be located only along the walls of the plane, leaving a lighted arch down the center of the aircraft to make it seem less claustrophobic during long trips.

For the first time in many years of jet travel, the windows on the 7E7 will actually be easy to look out of. During their research, Boeing engineers were constantly told that people wanted "bigger" windows, but when asked how big, passengers couldn't put their finger on it. Finally, Mr. Brauer and his team determined that people really want to see the horizon "to have a sense of where they are in relationship to the Earth."

That is almost impossible for passengers in today's airplanes because the windows are too short and squatty. The 7E7's windows will be 19 inches tall and 11 inches wide, 46% taller than the 13-by-9.5 inch windows in the777. The bigger windows are possible largely because the plane's frame makes extensive use of strong composite materials instead of weaker aluminum, allowing engineers to leave larger holes.

Also, gone will be the pesky window shades that don't work right half of the time. Instead, the windows will be coated with electrochromic film or a similar substance, such as used in automatic-dimming rear-view mirrors in cars, that would give passengers and flight attendants the ability to make windows more or less transparent by pushing a button.

Over the years, airplane mock-ups have featured flashy but unrealistic amenities such as piano bars and gift shops. Boeing says it stayed away from that because the 7E7 is supposed to allow airlines to make more money. "Some of the things we discovered, like making the windows bigger, were the sort of thing that make you slap your head and wonder why we didn't do this all along," Mr. Brauer says.

One example is how the seating is arranged in economy class. Boeing believes most 7E7s would seat eight passengers abreast. Rather than arrange the seats in the popular configuration of two seats next to each window and four in the middle, Boeing believes passengers would be more comfortable if there were only two seats in the middle and three on the outside aisles.

Why? Because in a 2-4-2 configuration, undesirable seats tend to be "stranded" in the middle of the jet. In a 3-2-3 configuration, any empty seats would more likely be evenly divided and more passengers would stand a chance of being seated next to an empty seat. "It's like a free upgrade," says Mr. Brauer.

# # #

7E7 vs. 767-300ER:

Range (nautical miles):
7E7 Short - 3,500
7E7 Base - 7,800
7E7 Stretch - 8,300
767-300ER - 6,150

Length/wingspan (feet):
7E7 Short - 182/164-170.6
7E7 Base - 182/193
7E7 Stretch - 202/193
767-300ER - 180.3/156

Passengers (in 3 classes):
7E7 Short - 200 (can be configured to 300-seat one class
7E7 Base - 200
7E7 Stretch - 250
767-300ER - 218

Max. Takeoff Weight (pounds):
7E7 Short - 252k - 352k
7E7 Base - 452.5k
7E7 Stretch - 500k
767-300ER - 412k

Potential Market:
7E7 Short - 500
7E7 Base - 1,000
7E7 Stretch - 1,000
767-300ER - 900 (for all 767 models)

Date of Service Entry:
7E7 Short - 2008
7E7 Base - 2008
7E7 Stretch - 2010 or later
767-300ER - 1986

I'm not sure I agree with the logic behind the 3-2-3 seating arrangement, but everything else sounds fantastic...
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RE: Wall Street Journal Article - "Boeing's New Baby"

Wed Nov 19, 2003 2:09 am

I think the 3-2-3 config comes out of the fact that Boeing has, for years, been advertising the advantage of the 767s 2-3-2 over Airbus' 2-4-2... taking the 3-2-3-route they won't have to admit that 2-4-2 isn't all that bad...
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RE: Wall Street Journal Article - "Boeing's New Baby"

Wed Nov 19, 2003 2:24 am

I think that now the success of the 7E7 will depend upon pricing. Airbus seem to be able to do better deals than Boeing, and this may be a reflection of the relative build efficiency of each maker.

But it sure sounds good!

Also don't like the 3-2-3 seating, I personally prefer 2-3-2, but even 2-4-2 would be better than being stuck in a window seat, having to crawl over 2 fellow passengers, to go to the bathroom.


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RE: Wall Street Journal Article - "Boeing's New Baby"

Wed Nov 19, 2003 2:25 am

3-2-3 sounds fantastic. I hated being in the middle row on say, a DC-10 (2-5-2 if I remember correctly). I'm looking forward to the new window size. I'm not sure what exactly can be done but I hope the Boeing designers are looking into ways a laptop can be used more easily in flight. I think in-seat power should most certainly be standard equipment on any long-haul aircraft.

Above all else, I hope the interior is quiet.
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RE: Wall Street Journal Article - "Boeing's New Baby"

Wed Nov 19, 2003 2:40 am

I spot a potential problem for aviation photographers though.

Ever been on a flight where most of the people have their shades down, but you have yours open, happily taking aerial photos to use for and

I have.

If the flight attendants will be in control of how much transparency each window has, then i certainly hope that adjustments for different windows will be possible. Because I'd hate to loose a good inflight photo op because Joe Arrogant up in Business Class would rather sleep than enjoy the view.

If all windows will be linked so that every window has the same transparency setting, I don't think I'll enjoy flying on the 7E7 much at all. 75% of the fun of flying for me is the ability to take good pictures out the window.
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RE: Wall Street Journal Article - "Boeing's New Baby"

Wed Nov 19, 2003 2:42 am

Further to my previous post, the real economic appeal of this aircraft is that it can seat 9 across, using to-days standard high density seating. Charter, and short range operators will take advantage of this to really cram the passengers in.


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