Boeing’s Dreamliner stops in Heathrow

Posted on 23 Apr 2012

Boeing today introduced its new twin-aisle aircraft, the 787 Dreamliner, to its UK customers, partners and suppliers at London’s Heathrow Airport.

The plane, whose stop in London marks the beginning of the sixth leg of the Dream Tour, is considered Boeing’s most innovative yet, with a new design, an increased performance and new levels of comfort for passengers.

Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said: “Our partnership with the aviation and aerospace sectors in the United Kingdom stretches back over 70 years and as we continue to manufacture and deliver the 787 Dreamliner our customers and their passengers alongside the UK aerospace sector will all see increased benefits from the programme. With Rolls-Royce engines, by value 25% of the plane is made in the UK.”

The 787 uses 20% less fuel and has a noise footprint 60% smaller than today’s similarly-sized airplanes. Fifty-nine customers from six continents of the world have placed orders for over 850 airplanes valued at over $178bn, making it the most successful twin-aisle launch of a new commercial airplane in the company’s history.

Made primarily from composite materials, including carbon fibre reinforced plastic, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the first mid-size airplane capable of flying long-range routes (longer than the 747’s) and will allow airlines to open new, non-stop routes preferred by their customers. It will be able to fly non-stop from the UK to Honolulu or Santiago.

The production rate for the 787 is now set at 3.5 Dreamliners per month, with the aim to go to 10 per month by the end of 2013. The ramp up in production is expected to bring significant benefits to the UK economy through the supply chain.

Rolls-Royce manufactures the 787’s engines, which are 112 inches in diameter and are provided with a large fan that helps reducing the noise created by the turbine blades.

“The Trent 1000 engine has 700,000 pounds of thrust, but it’s also quieter and more fuel efficient than other engines. Being involved in the development and testing programmes was a great advantage for us,” said Heather Dunbar, Trent 1000 development HPC section leader, who started at the company as a graduate trainee seven years ago. She also explained how all Rolls-Royce sites extensively apply lean principles to respond to the large number of orders.

Other suppliers contributing to the development of the 787 Dreamliner include Contour, Eaton, GKN, Goodrich Actuation Systems, Messier-Bugatti-Dowty and GE Aviation.

Peter Hall, public relations manager of Messier-Bugatti-Dowty, the French-British manufacturer that makes the plane’s landing gear and electric brakes, said: “Boeing really encouraged suppliers to introduce new materials. We developed a titanium cylinder for the landing gear, which is a first in industry and resulted in considerable weight savings.” The manufacture of landing gear for the 787 represents the first commercial order with Boeing for the company, which had previously worked with the plane-maker’s military business.

SIRS Navigation, a Kent-based SME specialised in the manufacture of fight deck instrumentation, employs 24 people. Despite operating in a very niche market, it became Boeing’s exclusive supplier of magnetic navigation devices, which contain about 80 components. The 787 will represent about 7-8% of its turnover.

Managing director Bob Eady said: “We like to think quality. Continuous improvement has cut our costs by 20%, and our lead times have also been reduced dramatically. We work a lot with suppliers, looking at the entire value stream, just like Boeing does with us.”