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oct 07

The 787 Dreamliner Debuts This Month

The most interesting new thing in aviation since the launch of the super jumbo Airbus A380 is coming later this month, when a Boeing 787

Dreamliner operated by All Nippon Airways will take off from Tokyo to Hong Kong on the aircraft's first passenger flight on October 26.

The Dreamliner promises to be quieter, roomier, and have a less dry atmosphere than today's current planes. It also may deliver greater fuel efficiency, which could translate to cheaper fares.

Yet most Americans won't see their first 787 Dreamliner until late in 2012, when United is expected to start using the aircraft.

The Dreamliner is the first commercial plane with a shell made mostly of composite carbon—essentially, a strong, lightweight plastic—instead of aluminum. This material allows designers to craft more creative airplane designs.

Passengers inside every class ought to enjoy benefits. Windows are bigger (10 inches by 18 inches) to allow in more natural light. They'll also dim electronically—replacing pull-down shades, with passengers and flight attendants having control over the dimmer switch.

The twin-aisle Dreamliner has noticeably better overhead room in the aisles and wider overhead bins. The seats recline by sliding the seat bottom forward, rather than tilting the seat back. Seat size doesn't change, though, except in premier classes—surprise, surprise.

Passenger should feel fewer effects of jet lag for a couple of reasons. The aircraft's cabin will be kept at a high humidity, so passengers don't suffer as frequently from dry eyes and headaches. The plane will be quieter, too. That's good news because the repetitive sound of the engine noise is believed to be one of the tiring factors on the human mind that worsens jet lag. Also, the color of the lights in the cabin could be changed to reflect the light level at one's destination, though it depends on the individual airline whether they take advantage of that option.

In-flight entertainment could potentially be better, too, because any aircraft could support heavier (and thus more powerful) in-flight entertainment systems without additional fuel cost. But the choice of in-flight entertainment system depends on the airline specifically.

Flights might even be smoother in the air, as a so-called "gust alleviation" system evens out those occasional batches of turbulence in flights with automatic responses in the wing to adjust. This technology only works for small patches of turbulence, though.

Take a one-minute video tour, courtesy of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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