Will Boeing's 787 Revolutionize Air Travel?

The Boeing Co 's BA 787 Dreamliner pretty clearly holds a preeminent position in the lucrative long-range passenger jet market. If one considers innovation, efficiency, comfort, along with environmental awareness to create the ultimate flying experience, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner can be regarded as the most modern airplane in the world. The advent of the Dreamliner has been no less a revolution in the contemporary aircraft industry.

The Dreamliner leads a new era of wide-body aircraft that also includes Airbus' EADSY A350, the Boeing 777X, the Airbus A330neo and finally the Airbus A380neo.

787 Dreamliner: The Oomph Factor

The Dreamliner has incorporated breakthrough technologies designed to enhance passenger experience while significantly lowering operating costs. The main change in this airplane was in the material used to construct the fuselage.

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is the first commercial wide-body aircraft with a fuselage made of large one-piece barrel sections made from carbon composite material. The lightweight and environmentally friendly carbon composites help to diminish fuel burn. This was Boeing's trump card, bringing about a welcome change from traditional materials like aluminum and titanium.

The Dreamliner carries between 242 and 323 passengers. The 787 family continues to evolve with the 787-9 and 787-10 being the latest versions. The third and longest 787, the 787-10, is in development and set to deliver in 2018.

In addition to bringing big-jet ranges to mid-size airplanes, the 787 provides airlines with superior fuel efficiency, resulting in exceptional environmental performance. The airplane, as per Boeing, uses 20% less fuel than similarly sized aircraft.

While talking about the composite design for increased flight comfort, the 787 has a state-of-the-art cabin. Flight attendants and other crew members can customize the lighting in the cabin, choosing, for example, bright daylight or a calm night sky. Even cooler, the plane has no window shades. Instead, passengers have a dimming option. The cabin seats 242 to 335 passengers in typical three-class seating arrangements.

The Battle Rages On

Boeing versus Airbus is one of the most hard-fought, closely watched marketing battles out there.

When compared with "Super Jumbo" A380, Dreamliner travels the same distance at the same speed but carries half the passengers. The Dreamliner's small size, quick flight-turnaround times along with fuel economy account for its sales advantage over the A380.

Now, the French manufacturer's new A330neo comes in two versions - A330-800neo and A330-900neo. By making aerodynamics improvements with new Rolls-Royce Holdings PLC Trent 7000 engines, these jets would reduce fuel consumption by 14% per seat. The A330neo's fuselage as well as wings will however be made from conventional aluminum that is considered to be heavier.

Airbus is therefore stepping up efforts to get its all-new composite airplane, the A350, to the market. Both the 787 and the A350 are considered to be long-range airplanes with the 787 is what is known as an MEA - a More Electric Aircraft.

Meanwhile, both China and Russia are planning to build an advanced twin-aisle, long-range jet to go head-to-head with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. However, considering China's nascent aircraft manufacturing industry, the new jetliner probably won't matter much in terms of competition for Boeing. Industry analysts are of the opinion that Commercial Aircraft Corp. of China and Russia's United Aircraft Corp. are launching their wide-body project much more as a national agenda than to meet a market need.

Canada's Bombardier Inc. BDRBF and Brazil's Embraer S.A. ERJ are also in the commercial race but their presence in the market is negligible compared to the two giants.

Taking to the Sky

After a bumpy stretch that saw the Dreamliner delayed by three years, the first deliveries to its launch customer, All Nippon Airways, finally took place in Oct 2011. Since then Boeing has demonstrated a slow but steady pace of Dreamliner delivery.

How game changing has the Dreamliner been? With 329 Dreamliners being delivered to airlines the world over through Sep 2015, the numbers speak for itself. Boeing has unfilled orders of 768 Dreamliners till now. This fuel efficient airplane has definitely found a niche for itself.

The U.S. aerospace giant reported strong delivery numbers for the third quarter of 2015 on the back of continued growth of its 787 Dreamliner and Next Generation 737 single-aisle jetliners, beating its archrival, Airbus. Its 787 Dreamliner despite setbacks and technical snags remains a popular choice for major airlines, with 37 deliveries in the third quarter. Boeing has plans to boost the production rate to 12 per month in 2016 and 14 per month by the end of the decade.

To Conclude

The decades of planning and with billions of dollars spent in finance, the 787 is the plane for today and for the future given its efficient, timely and cost effective flights. From the jumbo jets of yester years to the wide-bodied, mid-sized aircraft of today, Boeing has revolutionized aircraft manufacturing.

Given Boeing's impressive track record in both innovation and fuel efficiency, it's a wait and watch game to see whether any upcoming wide-bodied, single-aisle, mid-sized airplane can dent Dreamliner sales.

Boeing holds a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

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The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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