Avgeek DREAM Come True — My First Boeing 787 Flight

I finally took my very first flight on board a Boeing 787 Dreamliner! I’ve been following this aircraft since it was on the drawing board, and still called the 7E7. I joined the World Design Team and participated in the naming contest, though “Dreamliner” did not get my vote. In 2008. my wife and I even made a special Seattle detour prior to an Alaskan cruise, just to see the first 787 (ZA001) on the assembly line in Everett.

I had toured a couple of 787s in the past, including test aircraft ZA003 during Boeing’s World Dream Tour at DFW, and British Airways’ first 787-8, G-ZBJA, but I had yet to fly on one until this week. My inaugural flight was aboard British Airways’ first 787-9 Dreamliner, G-ZBKA.

My trip was part of a media assignment for AirwaysNews, and my full trip report will be on that site very soon. But here, I just wanted to share my experience in a more personal way, and reflect on some notes that I found interesting.

Before my flight, I had always made the assumption that the dimmable, electromagnetic window shades were more of a gimmick than something that was really necessary. This flight completely changed my mind! Leaving Heathrow, I sat in seat 1A, which had the sun on my side during the first half of the flight. I dimmed my window shortly after takeoff. The first couple of steps still allow you to see outside with a lot of detail, but without being blinded by direct sun. It became pleasant to look outside. With the window completely darkened, it wasn’t a full blackout, but the sunlight now appeared as moonlight, making the cloud tops glow beneath us as we soared over the North Atlantic.

British Airways' 787-9 First Class. Photo by Paul Thompson.
British Airways’ 787-9 First Class. Photo by Paul Thompson.

Everything about the flight was excellent, from the quiet cabin to the service by the flight attendants, the seat comfort, and entertainment options. As you’ll see in the photo above, the seat area is spacious, and appointed with high-end materials and features. Once again, there will be many more details about the trip on AirwaysNews, so please check it out.

I’ll have more 787 experience in the weeks to come, including a trip to the other side of the world, so stay tuned for that!


Boeing Sets New All-Time Quarterly Delivery Record!

Boeing announced today that the company had set a record for aircraft deliveries in the third quarter of this year. One hundred ninety nine aircraft were handed over to their new owners, between July 1st and September 30th — which factors out to over two planes every single day!

For the quarter, Boeing delivered 126 737NGs, four 747s, five 767s, twenty seven 777s, and thirty seven 787s.

Image courtesy Boeing
Image courtesy Boeing

The total delivery number for the year sits at 580 airplanes. 101 of those planes have been 787 Dreamliners. Previously, the quarterly record was set just three months ago, in which 197 Boeing were delivered in Q2 of this year. Boeing VP Randy Tinseth says, “Bottom line—it’s all part of our goal to get airplanes into the hands of our customers as quickly as possible.”

American 787-8 Dreamliner. Image via Boeing
American 787-8 Dreamliner. Image via Boeing

One airline, American Airlines has experienced delays on the deliveries of their new 787s – not because of Boeing, but because of production delays from French seat maker Zodiac. Zodiac’s production facility in eastern Washington experienced an explosion in min-July of this year, in which five people were injured. The company’s shares dropped after the Runway Girl Network reported that American was seeking a new seat supplier for its 787-9 deliveries, slated for 2016. Zodiac experienced an explosion at its facility in eastern Washington in July of this year, injuring five. Rival company B/E Aerospace is presumed to be the new supplier.

Airbus Looks to Introduce “I Just Want to Sleep” Class

Beds on planes are not a new concept, with airlines such as Etihad and Singapore offering lavish accommodations in their first class suites. But with a new patent application filed yesterday, Airbus is now looking to develop a new, stacked, pod-like arrangement, similar to those seen in some international airports.

Airbus Pod 2

In the drawings, we see a 3-3-3 economy seating configuration, which is common to the A380 and A350 – both of which are used for long haul international flights, where people would like to get some quality sleep. The application says these beds would be safe to occupy during taxi, takeoff, and landing. Therefore, the passenger would not need to purchase or occupy an additional seat. With a cross section of just over 31 by 31 inches, the pods would be arranged so that the passenger would lay perpendicular to the direction of flight, with their head toward the outer wall of the aircraft. The box would be made of plastic or fiber-reinforced plastic, keeping the weight of the equipment relatively light.

For safety purposes, the pod would be equipped with an inflatable air bag system to protect the passenger in the event of a crash, but would only be 5-10cm thick, so as not to impede evacuation of the aircraft. The inflation would be triggered automatically by sensors. The space would also be void of any edges and corners on which passengers could potentially injure themselves. A passenger service unit (PSU) would be installed, and would include an emergency oxygen mask, a speaker, an air conditioning vent, and a lamp. A flat-screened video monitor could be provided for in-flight entertainment and safety videos, which would drop down from the ceiling. These would of course need to be stowed during takeoff and landing. Speaking of video, Airbus also recommends a small camera be installed so that flight attendants can monitor the passenger during the flight.

Airbus Pods 3

Even in the most comfortable lie-flat business class seats, you can still be disturbed by conversation, galley preparation, light from windows, and even the footsteps of people in the aisle. The notion of being surrounded by four walls does have its appeal, not only for privacy, but for quality of sleep. So, what do you think? I think it’s a great concept, and I would imagine it could be pretty comfortable, except for perhaps taking your meals. And for someone who has never gotten a good night’s sleep on a plane, I think this concept would finally provide a way for that to be achieved.

Airbus ‘Perlan 2’ Sailplane Completes Successful First Flight

On Wednesday in Redmond, Oregon, Airbus Group’s Perlan 2 sailplane made its first flight. Flown by chief pilot Jim Payne and team pilot and project manager Morgan Sandercock, and attached to a towplane, it took off from Redmond Municipal Airport. It was released by the towplane at an altitude of 5,000 feet. During the flight, the pilots performed various control system checks on the aircraft.

Sailplane pilot and NASA test pilot Einar Enevoldson conceived the project in 1992, after seeing images of stratospheric mountain waves in Sweden. He then spent the following six years researching mountain waves, which are spawned by strong winds blowing over the tops of high mountain ranges. In 1998, Meteorologist Elizabeth Austin partnered with Enevoldson, and discovered that the Polar Vortex, and one of its principal components, the stratospheric polar night jet, existing only in winter, provided the high speed wind in the stratosphere that powered incredibly high waves.

Famed experimental pilot Steve Fossett joined the project in 1999. At NASA’s request, the U.S. Air Force loaned pressure suits to Enevoldson and Fossett. A German-made, two-seat Glaser-Dirks DG-500M glider was chosen as the basis for the Perlan flyer. It was built as a motorized glider, but the Perlan team removed the engine. Fossett and Enevoldson flew the glider in the Patagonia region of Argentina to a record altitude of 50,727 feet in 2006. This led Fossett to pledge funding for Phase 2, but he died in a 2007 plane crash into mountainous terrain, 9 miles from Mammoth Lakes, California. Project funding was halted, and so was the Perlan project.

Image via Airbus / Perlan Project
Image via Airbus / Perlan Project

At EAA Airventure 2014 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders announced the Airbus partnership with ‘Perlan Mission II.’ I was at the press conference for the announcement, where Enders said, “Our company is built on the shoulders of aviation pioneers who pushed boundaries in their own times – people who flew higher, farther, faster. Hence,when we learned of the Perlan Project and its quest to soar to record heights, we knew we needed to find a way to be a part of it. Partnering with the Perlan team is consistent with our core values of furthering innovation in aerospace and of inspiring the next generation of designers, manufacturers and aviators.” Phase 2 would involve soaring to the edge of space, at 90,000 feet in order to explore climate change, learn more about weather forecasting, the Ozone layer, and the future of Martian space exploration.

Perlan 1 is now on display at the Museum of Flight, in Seattle. For Perlan 2, a two-seat pressurized glider by Windward Performance is the research aircraft. Made of composites, its 83-foot wingspan will allow it to soar to even higher altitude, and with air pressure less than 2% of seal level, the glider will fly at nearly half the speed of sound. Although the cabin will be pressurized, the pilots will wear pressure suits, in case of an emergency. It is also equipped with a ballistic parachute system. Prior to Wednesday’s flight, Perlan 2 received its airworthiness certificate from the FAA on September 4th.

Perlan 2 will next be flown in Nevada, this December, after receiving its cabin pressurization. El Calafate, Argentina is the selected location where the exploratory flights will be performed, slated for the Southern Hemisphere winter of 2016, to take advantage of the Polar Vortex and stratospheric polar night jet. The 90,000-foot goal altitude, once achieved, will be a record for an airplane, surpassing the SR-71 Blackbird which holds the current record of 85,069 feet. By 2019, the project aims to move on to Phase 3, adopting new transonic wings and achieving an altitude of 100,000 feet.

Untappd is a Must-Have App for the Traveling Beer Lover

Did you know that as of the end of 2014, there were over 3,400 beer breweries on the United States? That’s a 19 percent growth over the previous year. And what really blows my mind is that we finally surpassed the number of pre-Prohibition breweries that existed before many were shuttered. If you’re a beer drinker, that’s great news! But with so many choices, where does one begin? Well, as the cliche goes, there’s an app for that, and this one is called Untappd.

My Untappd profile.
My Untappd profile.

I have been an enthusiastic Untappd user for a few years now. I don’t remember the exact date on which I joined, but I have logged nearly 1,200 unique beers on my account. Now before you get all judgmental, a high percentage of these were tiny samples ingested at one of the many beer festivals or tasting events I’ve attended. At these festivals, I’ll likely sample 30 or so beers, in very small quantity, just to try as many as possible. I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity. But I digress.

Untappd's search function allows you to begin typing a beer name, then pre-populates the best match.
Untappd’s search function allows you to begin typing a beer name, then pre-populates the best match.

Why do I use Untappd? Well, that’s simple. It fulfills my needs as a beer drinker. First, because there are so many beers out there, I like to keep track of the ones I’ve tried. Second, It allows me to rate those beers and provide notes and/or a photo if I choose. Finally, when I am traveling, which I do fairly frequently, the search function helps me find local breweries. If there’s not a local brewery nearby, I can visit a bar that will likely be serving local brews. For example, in the summer of 2012, my family went to San Diego. While there, I used Untappd to locate Russian River’s Pliny the Elder – one of the highest-rated IPAs in America. At the time, we lived in Texas, so there was no chance I would find it there. But while cruising the Pacific Coast Highway, I used Untappd to find Pliny on tap at a nearby bar. Since then, I’ve also used it to find breweries and beers in Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Hamburg, Houston, London, NYC, Orlando, Seattle, Vancouver, and other places.

All of these breweries, just in downtown Denver! Jealous yet?
All of these breweries, just in downtown Denver! Jealous yet?

Speaking of beer festivals, the Great American Beer Festival is September 24-26th in Denver, where I am fortunate to live. It is the worlds largest competitive gathering of brewers. There will be 154 breweries in site, just from Colorado! This till be my first year to attend GABF, and I have been looking forward to it for months. While it may appear anti-social to be using my iPhone the whole time, I’ll be logging my beers in Untappd as I go along. Plus, I’ll be there on my own, so it’s not like I’ll be ignoring conversation with anyone. If you happen at GABF on Thursday the 24th, hit me up on Twitter @FlyingPhotog and we’ll raise a glass. It’s always great to meet other people with the same appreciation for great beer.


B-29 “Doc” Inches Toward Its Second First Flight

Did you know that where is currently exactly ONE airworthy Boeing B-29 Superfortress in the world? It’s true, and her name is Fifi. Maintained by the Commemorative Air Force, Fifi has been making the rounds at airshows and movie appearances for decades. But a restoration group in Kansas has located and spent the past few years restoring another B-29, named Doc – and Doc will soon be taking to the skies as well.

Image via "Doc's Friends"
Image via “Doc’s Friends”

Doc first rolled off the assembly line in Wichita, Kansas in March of 1944, registered 44-69972. After seeing no action during the war, Doc was assigned to radar calibration duty in the 1950s, in a squadron known as the Seven Dwarfs. Doc towed aerial targets, until being assigned to duty as a bombing target in 1955. Remarkably, Doc survived 42 years as a bombing target largely intact, which perhaps speaks to the design of the aircraft and “Superfortress” moniker. Doc was discovered wasting away in the Mojave desert in 1987, and finally recovered from the desert in 1998. In 2000, Doc was returned to Wichita, Kansas, its original assembly site. The foundation “Doc’s Friends” was formed in 2013, to restore the plane, headed by retired Spirit AeroSystems CEO Jeff Turner.

Since that time, volunteers have spent thousands of hours restoring Doc. The foundation had hoped to have the B-29 up and running in time for EAA’s Airventure this summer in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where Fifi made an appearance. However, on Friday, Doc’s engines were started successfully for the first time. The restoration group is now currently working to achieve an airworthiness certificate for Docand plans to perform test flights at McConnell Air Force Base, according to Flying. 

Image via "Doc's Friends"
Image via “Doc’s Friends”

Between 1943 and 1946, 3,970 B-29s were produced. Two B-29s are famous for ending the Pacific theater of World War II. Enola Gay, callsign “Dimples 82” dropped a Little Boy nuclear bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, August 6th, 1945. Three days later, Bockscar released a Fat Man bomb on Nagasaki, Japan. Six days after that, Japan’s surrender was announced to the world, over the radio waves.

Four Seasons to Open a 5th Resort in Hawaii

If you’re dreaming of a vacation at a Hawaiian resort, you can now book a stay at Four Seasons’ newest Hawaiian resort, the Four Seasons Resort O‘ahu at Ko Olina. Opening on June 1st of next year, the property will be Four Seasons’ fifth resort in Hawaii.

Photo courtesy Four Seasons
Photo courtesy Four Seasons

Nelson Hilton, Senior Director of Marketing said that high demand led to the decision to open reservations nine months in advance. “We’ve had so many inquiries from all over the world asking when the new Four Seasons will open, so we’ve decided to start taking reservations for next year as of today. Even sight unseen and before we’ve revealed any details, the global reputation of Four Seasons in Hawaii has assured travelers that our fifth resort – the first on Oahu – will be nothing short of extraordinary.”

Image courtesy Four Seasons
Image courtesy Four Seasons

Four Seasons Resort O’ahu at Ko Olina boasts 358 rooms and suites, five restaurants, lounges, a spa, tennis club, event spaces for 900 guests,and of course, Hawaii’s white sand beaches. The resort is located on Oahu’s tranquil southwestern coast, away from the busy Waikiki area. Rates start at $595 per night, but eager opportunists can get their fourth night free during an introductory offer. Other Four Seasons resorts in Hawaii are located on Lanai, the Big Island, Lanai-Koele, and Maui.