As the Asian carriers start carrying passengers around on their new 787s, the Dreamliner World Tour is still underway, with N787BX – the third prototype aircraft – visiting many customers in airports around the world ahead of them taking delivery.
This past week the aircraft has been in the UK, visiting Thomson Airways at Manchester, Virgin Atlantic at Gatwick, and British Airways at Heathrow. I was lucky enough to be invited by the latter to come and have a look around the state-of-the-art plane as it took part in the re-opening ceremony of the airline’s Grade II listed hangar, which has recently undergone modifications to accommodate the 787s and A380s that will be entering the fleet from 2013.
Once the ceremony, tea/coffee and sampling of the new Club World tuckbox menu had been enjoyed, my allotted time of 10.20am for a tour of the aircraft arrived.
After entering through the door, it was now Boeing’s job to entertain. A number of employees were on hand to show us around the aircraft interior, explaining the fantastic features. A bunch of flowers on a pedestal framed the spacious, cathedral-style entrance area whilst mood lighting flickered overhead.
Up front, wide seating had been installed to demonstrate First Class, whilst in the rear Dreamliner-themed Economy class seating still looked a cut above the rest.
In the cockpit, one of the pilots who has been taking the aircraft on its tour explained the unique layout which aids flight crew workloads and revolutionises aircraft operation, whilst still maintaining a conversion time of only 5 days for existing Boeing 777 pilots.
In the rear, a rare glimpse into the world of the crew rest area was offered. Climbing a narrow, steep staircase behind an unassuming door led to the loft space with six beds and more mood lighting.
And how can we leave out the toilets. The doors are positioned to allow wheelchair users to pull right up, and the space age seat lids glide up and down.
It should also be mentioned that alongside the Dreamliner, British Airways had pulled in their new A319 ‘Dove’ Olympics logojet G-EUOH, and members of the marketing team were keen to stress how much effort BA employees are putting in to this year’s London Olympics – both at Heathrow and as part of the bigger picture of being a sponsor partner.
Whilst the hangar has had millions spent on it, removing office space, creating a gap above the door to fit the A380 tail, and creating rigs that can extend around aircraft receiving maintenance, it is nice to see the original arch across the ceiling which exists from the BOAC days and gains the building its listed status. The neighbouring hangar will be worked on next to bring it up to the same standard.
My thanks to British Airways for the invite.