After three long years of delays, All Nippon Airways (ANA) officially took delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner on September 25, 2011. Since then, ANA has been preparing two of the next-generation airliners for their first set of flights starting on October 26, 2011. I was able to take a 90-minute excursion flight leaving from Narita International Airport (NRT) on the 28th of October.
The check-in process for the VIP flight went quickly, and after receiving our tickets that showed our flight leaving from NRT only to return an hour and a half later, passengers headed to the gate. Passengers lined up to board buses to be taken to ANA’s second 787 Dreamliner, registered JA802A.
As the bus rounded a corner at the airport, both ANA Dreamliners parked next to each other came into view. After a short time on the tarmac, everyone boarded and prepared for their first flight on a Dreamliner.
The 787 offers LED lighting that makes the cabin seem larger and provides a comfortable atmosphere. Airlines have 128 color combinations to choose from for their cabin lighting. To help demonstrate this feature’s potential, ANA chose a rainbow setting during the flight’s boarding process, though this setting is not typical for standard operations.
A few minutes after its scheduled departure, the 787 pushed back and started engines. The Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines produced a quiet, yet powerful sound as they warmed up. After a short taxi, the engines were put to full throttle and the 787 gracefully accelerated to take off speed and lifted off. Passengers in the cabin gave the plane, the crew and the experience a round of applause.
Because our flight was only 90 minutes, the airline didn’t offer a full meal service. Flight attendants, however, served water, juice or coffee and a special 787 cookie desert. The cabin was quite busy with passengers trying to check out the different amenities, while trying to catch the views of Japan and Mount Fuji out the large windows.
The windows are about 30% larger than those found on other comparable airliners. This translates to better views of the outside, even if you’re not in a window seat. They do not have a pull down screen, like one would find on other aircraft. The Dreamliner’s windows have an auto-dimming function with five different grades of tint that stay partially transparent, even at the darkest setting.
ANA’s first two Dreamliners have a short-haul domestic configuration. There are 12 seats in Business Class with a 2-2-2 layout and 252 seats in economy with a 2-4-2 layout. Airlines will be able to configure the cabin with a maximum of nine seats abreast in economy.
ANA’s business seats are a cradle design with a recline angle of 160 degrees. All economy seats have a fixed back shell that do not recline, but passengers can move their seat cushions a few inches forward. Long-haul international configurations will have ANA’s new Business Staggered product, which has already been premiered on some of ANA’s Boeing 777-300ERs.
Each economy seat has a 10.6” touch screen monitor and remote control to access ANA’s selection of 160 TV and movie programs, games and a seat-to-seat chat service.
This ANA 787 has seven lavatories, but the one to check out is the third on the port side. This one is special, since it has a window to the outside providing amazing views of the ground below.
No matter what class you are sitting in, you will find that every toilet on board will flush and lower the seat automatically, with just a wave of a hand in front of a sensor. Each toilet also has a warm bidet function, which is found in most bathrooms around Japan.
Passengers will enjoy more overhead bin storage space for their carry-on bags and the bins are designed to provide more headroom when closed.
Due to the use of composite materials, the Dreamliner is able to make the cabin more comfortable during flight with improved humidity and cabin pressure. Since our excursion flight was short, it was difficult to determine if these innovations will make a large difference on a typical flight.
After flying around Japan, the 787 started its descent back to Narita. The landing was smooth and was greeted with another round of applause from passengers.
As of November 1, 2011, ANA has started operating two 787s on their Haneda-Okayama and Haneda-Hiroshima routes. In December, ANA will fly the 787 on its first scheduled international route between Haneda and Beijing, followed by their first long distance international flight in January 2012 between Haneda and Frankfurt, Germany.
Boeing currently has 797 orders for the Dreamliner from about 50 different airlines around the world.
All photographs © David Parker Brown