Don’t get too excited. I didn’t actually get to fly on one. But I did get invited to come take a tour of a 787 while it was on the ground here in Long Beach as part of a tour around North America. Of course, I was thrilled to do it.
I had plenty of time to spend on the outside of the airplane, because they had us waiting around for quite some time until Governor Jerry Brown arrived and gave a little speech. In the meantime, we could walk around all different sides of the airplane without anyone stopping us. It was a lot of fun. My first impression was probably skewed by the fact that it was nose to nose with a C-17, the military transport aircraft they make in Long Beach.
The 787 really is a good-looking airplane. That nose makes it look mean and fast. In fact, the only thing that makes it look a little slower is the engines themselves. They’re so large and impressive in their own right that they seem a little too big for the airplane. I will say that the engines with their scalloped cowlings and curved fan blades are a sight to be seen.
I think what I liked seeing most, however, was the big wing. It’s not A380-massive by any stretch, but it’s contoured with raked and curved wingtips on the end. It’s a thing of beauty.
Enough about the outside. It was finally time to head in. While many people fawned over the seats, I couldn’t have cared less. This is a Boeing demonstrator and we’ll never see those seats on an airplane in service. For me, I was interested in seeing some other features, which I covered in this 1:55 video. (Sorry about some of the sound being too soft.)
First up was the new entryway. Though Boeing clearly made the entry larger than you’ll ever see on any airline, the height of the ceiling with the new arch feature really did make for a different impression of openness. I look forward to seeing how that works with bulkheads on either side in actual airline service.
Next up was the overhead bin. They’re big. Nothing revolutionary but certainly big. Last and most important, I wanted to see those big, beautiful windows.
They really are huge and they’re close together. They provide some excellent visibility for passengers. As a window seat guy, I’m really excited about that. But the big win for me was getting to test out the window dimmers.
The 787 doesn’t have window shades but instead uses a method that dims the windows as you like. It takes 90 seconds for the windows to get their darkest, but even then it’s only 98 percent opaque. This is the best thing to happen to windows on airplanes in years. Now those who want to look outside can still do it while those who want to watch movies without glare or sleep can do it as well. I know it sounds silly, but this is a huge improvement.
I didn’t get to experience the low cabin noise, higher humidity, or lower cabin pressurization altitude, because we didn’t fly. Something tells me I’m going to need to seek one of these out sooner rather than later.