Thinking Tech

A 787 Dreamliner primer in advance of first flight Tuesday

A 787 Dreamliner primer in advance of first flight Tuesday

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Finally, the 787 Dreamliner is poised to take flight and I will be there to witness this emotional engineering triumph. First flight is the moment airplane builders, customers and passengers have been waiting for. Goose bumps, tears and cheers for all. Enjoy the moment for much work lies ahead. Godspeed.

I will be eating, drinking and breathing the 787 Dreamliner for the better part of the next week as first flight beckons. Below are a few resources that will bolster your knowledge of the 787 and at the end of this post are my coverage plans for the seminal event of Boeing's newest jetliner.

First off, the Youtube audio below is from just before the final 787 gauntlet test. I found it on Flightblogger Jon Ostrower's site accompanied by a story that identifies who's speaking. The gauntlet simulates flight and is one of the last pre-maiden voyage hurdles.

The folks in the audio go over engine start, taxi instructions, takeoff speeds and runway selection (in the gauntlet, 16R to the south from Paine Field In Everett, Wash., but the actual first flight runway will be on 34L to the north on Tuesday).

No more simulated 787 flight! credit: Boeing Commercial Airplanes

There's lots of interesting banter including the pilot's contrition over juicing the engines to produce 2Gs on the plane's simulated climb. One speaker remarks "This is so cool." Goose bumps.

An interesting set of Boeing web pages for Dreamliner junkies to check out is 787 Airplane Planning for Airport Characteristics. Because the 787 has not flown yet, much of the public data that Boeing engineers have provided has to do with the plane is on the ground which to this point has been its home.

Much of the data which goes back several years is either cast as "preliminary" or incomplete. It shows how much work and testing remain before customers get planes. How will the composites how up? How will the engines perform? What are the planes handling characteristics? What quirks did the test pilots notice? How was landing and takeoff?

Computers have weighed in for years with simulated conclusions and projections. Now it's time for the plane to speak for itself and take flight.

In preparation for first flight, check out the 787 Airport Compatibility Brochure (ACB) which details every conceivable dimension of the aircraft so it can safely taxi, take off, land and park. The ACB still includes blank pages about such things as how much runway will be required for takeoff and landing. How would will we know for sure until the plane takes off and lands?

The ACB was just updated and reveals that maximum takeoff weight for all three 787 models has been slightly increased. It also shows seating arrangements. I have no illusions about the airlines: they will stuff passengers in very nook and cranny to maximize revenue.

787-8 proposed seating credit: Boeing technical documents

Another fascinating document is the 787 Firefighting and Rescue Information which shows locations of fuel tanks, flammable material and escape doors. As an active call firefighter, I found this section to be particularly interesting. Did you know the fuel tanks stretch almost from wingtip to wingtip?

Poke around and you'll find out that Boeing leaves few stones unturned when it comes to documenting the plane and everything it will encounter.

I head out to Seattle Monday morning for first flight which presently is slated for 10 a.m. PT Tuesday, weather and technical conditions permitting. I will be blogging away both in SmartPlanet and in ZDNet's Between the Lines blogs usually authored by Sam Diaz, Andrew Nusca and my editor, Larry Dignan. My focus will be providing narrative and photos although I will have both a small recorder with me as well as a video camera.

This trip will retrace the path my self-taught electrical engineer father who traveled to Seattle many times in the 1950s. Allen A. Dodge (1918-1994) worked for a small circuit breaker company (Wood Electric in Ipswich, Mass.) whose primary customer was Boeing. On his first few trips, he took to train so each trip was about three weeks in duration. When he started to fly in the late Fifties, the trips shrunk to a week.

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Complete coverage of Boeing's 787 Dreamliner on SmartPlanet:

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure