Qatar Airways Dreamliner – a dream come true

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Qatar Airways crew onboard  the airline's new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Image :
Qatar Airways crew onboard the airline’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Image :

The world’s best airline, Qatar Airways will be launching  its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Australia. It announced on Friday that it would begin   the Dreamliner’s maiden flights from Doha to Perth  on February 1 ,2013 .

Qatar Airways has a total of 60 Dreamliners ordered as part of a US$50 billion order for 250 new aircrafts, including Boeing 777s and Airbus A380 superjumbos. The Dreamliners with a cost price of US$207 million were delivered only last month. The inaugural flight would be from London Heathrow airport on Friday ,December 14,2012.

The  Dreamliners have 254 seats in the  business (22 seats) and economy  (232 seats) classes, with  a 1-2-1 configuration in business and a 3-3-3 configuration in the economy sections.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a revolutionary aircraft, the first to be built from composite-plastic fuselage and wings, instead of aluminum.

Other design improvements of the new aircraft include a wider cabin, larger overhead bins and electronic dimmable windows. Boeing also claims that  the air is fresher as it is drawn directly from outside the plane and not through the engines as in other aircrafts.The  air is more humid, making the flight more comfortable for passengers.

In the economy class however, there’s less good news: Qatar has chosen an elbow-crunching 3-3-3 layout with 232 narrow seats.

The Dreamline has encountered problems right  from the beginning. First, it was the years of delay before commercial service took flight with launch customer , Nippon Airways in October last year. Then it was the fuel leaks. A brand new United Airlines Dreamliner was forced to make an emergency landing after the generator on board failed, just eight days after the airline  entered service. The US Federal Aviation Administration ordered safety checks on all 787s after fuel leaks were discovered.

“Qatar Airways has deployed the Dreamliners at tremendous speed,” Jonathan Man, a aerospace engineer from Houston, Texas told Arabian Gazette over the phone. “Though the new Dreamliners have come under attack in the US, Qatar Airways is sticking to its guns. We presume that it had done the necessary testing required before going ahead with its plan.”

Qatar Airways debut in  Australia is a race against time. “By launching its Dreamliner service down under, Qatar Airways would beat the likes of China Souther and Jetstar for bragging rights to the Dreamliners” Jonathan said. “Well, it is the number one Airline, so I guess it wants to maintain its position.

“From February onwards  we will be able to offer the UK and  Western Australian markets ,a single 787 product all the way, giving our passengers a whole new long-haul experience on the world’s newest aircraft” said Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker.

“From Perth, passengers will be  able to easily connect via Doha to more than 80 destinations worldwide, including over 30 in Europe.”

Why the Dreamliner?

Just as the name suggests ,it is a “dream come true” for business class  passengers. This will be an experience in itself and not mere travelling.

The new airplane is packed with avant garde technology and innovation, which will enable more productive use of time for the  business traveller or simply a  more rested time during the flight.

“The person who flies once or twice a year will likely always be price driven ” admits Boeing 787 programme director Kent Craver, “but corporate travellers seek out the airplane they want to fly on, and they’ll seek out the 787 Dreamliner. With everything we’ve done with the 787, we believe this airplane will become the preferred way to fly for business travellers.”

Higher cabin pressure

Most conventional passenger jets set the cabin pressure at an equivalent of around 7,500 to 8,000 feet above sea level, which Boeing claims is the primary cause of a range of in-flight illnesses.

“There are many passenger problems associated with altitude – headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and even nausea” Craver says.

The difference between external air pressure when an aircraft cruises at 40,000 feet and an internal pressure that’s one-fifth of that; stresses the plane’s fuselage – and  greater the difference, the more the stress.

That’s been the limiting factor in increasing cabin pressure, Craver explains: the metal body of current aircraft wouldn’t safely be able to handle the fatigue induced by maintaining this pressure at high altitudes.

That changes due to the use of carbon-fibre composite materials on the 787’s fuselage. Carbon-fibre doesn’t suffer from metal fatigue and in turn allows for lower ‘cabin altitude’ levels.

The 787’s cabin pressure is set to 6,000 feet, a figure arrived upon by Boeing ,by modifying a pressure chamber to look like an airplane cabin which could hold 12 people at a time.

“We cycled over 500 people through the chamber, and they stayed there for up to 20 hours of simulated flying time” Craver recalls, and they found that 6,000 feet was the ‘sweet spot’.

“Between sea level and 6,000 feet there was almost no difference in the reported symptoms” Craver says, “so we can alleviate or mitigate a lot of symptoms you get at a cabin altitude of 8,000 feet”

Boeing claims that one in four travellers experience some form of ‘respiratory distress’ after flying 12 hours in a conventional aircraft with a cabin pressure of 8,000 feet, but this plummets to 5-6 per cent at 6,000 feet.

Higher humidity, fresher air

Humidity would be higher compared to other aircrafts. This would reduce throat and eye irritation, headaches and even occasional dizziness caused by dry air. It can also cut down post flight colds which occur when nasal membranes become too dry to properly filter incoming air.

The cabin air quality would be much higher. The air circulating would be cleaner due to a two stage filtration system. This system removes gaseous molecules emitted by carpets, deodorant systems and even hand wipes.

Bigger windows with digital tinting

The Dreamliners upsized widndows which are 40%-60% larger than current ones would enable better viewing pleasure, it would also increase natural light inside the cabin.

Electronic window dimming sees the glass go dark at the touch of a button. Cabin crew can set the brightness level of all windows, such as ‘opening’ the windows for landing or dimming them during a flight, although passengers still retain a narrow band of control to make the window around 10% brighter without flooding your seatmates with a harsh burst of light.

Boeing Sky Interior

The modern Boeing Sky Interior cabin design which we’re starting to see on 737-800s from Virgin Australia and Qantas was first designed for the Dreamliner, so passengers will enjoy all the same benefits – such as larger and easier to use luggage bins with more headroom, adjustable LED ‘mood lighting’ and an interior which feels more open and spacious.

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