Saturday, November 05, 2005

My disastrous interview with a Boeing 787 engineer

` Now that Blogger is back up and running today, I figured I'd do a little interview in case anyone cares about the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Without further ado:

` I'm severely ill and feel like I've been hit with a tranquilizer dart, despite the fact that I haven't had any substances which might cause this effect since that pint of cider I had four days ago.

` I'm sitting at my computer with the man who was with me when I had the cider, the 787 engineer whom I've only referred to as 'Phil' on this blog.

` "It's all true, everything in that video," he says.

` "So," I ask, unable to really comprehend what's going on in the video, due to being in a stupor; "What makes this plane different from the previous Boeing models?"

` Phil: "This one has a ton of composites, meaning that you don't have to worry about corrosion from humidity. No bleed air is taken from the compressors of the jet engines - it's all onboard electrically powered systems that maintain the environment.

` "See, one of the problems people have when flying is altitude sickness and dehydration, which contribute to jet lag. The 787 will have more cabin pressure than normal planes - the air pressure of six thousand feet in altitude as opposed to eight thousand feet - so there will be more humidity and those symptoms won't be as bad."

` Me: "So that's a huge advantage to using the composites - they won't rust from the moisture in the cabin."

` Phil: "Actually, the main advantage is that the composite is a lot stronger and more flexible than aluminum, and there aren't many pieces in the fuselage: It's made of one-piece barrel sections instead of stringers and beams riveted together with an aluminum skin.

` "Composite's also much lighter, which allows you to have a much farther range without refueling. It'll be able to connect any two city pairs in the world, for example, Detroit to Shanghai nonstop."

` Me: "And you've been saying that it's a lot nicer on the inside, besides more normal air. There's a bunch more room and more space for your luggage..."

` Phil: "Yes, and the windows will be a lot bigger on the inside, and there are no window shades; you just turn the little dial to change the translucency. Also, the cabin lights can be adjusted to about any color, to simulate the sky at any time of day."

` Me: "And it's more convenient on the outside, too, you said something about the spiky edges on the jet engines, that it cuts down on noise?"

` Phil: "It's a lot quieter than a normal plane, and I'm not going to go into any detail. Granted, I don't know a lot of the numbers."

` Me: "Well, I'd guess not. You're a loads engineer. So, what is it that you're working on?"

` Phil: "There's honestly not anything I can tell you about what I do, at least not anything you can put online."

` Me: "Ah."

` And that was about it. It had completely trailed off by then, and there wasn't anything else I could think of to ask.

` Grah. Thank you and goodnight.


Galtron said...

My question is: Why didn't you tie him up and torture the information out of him?

I know there's more to the Boeing website than what they're telling us, and I believe people have the right to know!

Aaron said...

I'm excited! Will the 787 use the same engines as the triple 7? Is the '87 intended to replace any other planes in the Boeing fleet? Is the extended 747-400 the only answer Boeing will have for the A380? What's up with those wings? They don't look anything like previous Boeing wings. On google earth you can always tell which planes are Boeings because of their distinctive wings (especially 747). The 787 has only two main gear so it must not be very heavy. How many passengers will it carry under a 'normal' configuration? I all noticed the 'all glass' cockpit, nice!

Even more exciting... When will the BWB idea become reality?

Aaron said...

For those of you out of the 'loop', here's a link explaining the BWB concept.

S E E Quine said...

` Galtron, I think I'd get carried away if I tried to torture him, so no. Once again, do not tempt me.

` And Aaron - First Question: 787s have GE-NX or Rolls Royce Trent 1,000s engines, which I don't think have been used in Boeings before.
` Second question: It is rumored that there is a good reason why Boeing isn't very frightened of the A380. If you want to take a big leap of faith - which I don't - this reason is VERY good.
` Also, Boeing wings look distinctive due to their efficiency - the 787 wings are even moreso.
` Yes, it's an extremely lightweight aircraft, but I don't know how many passengers it can carry. Supposedly, it's a replacement for a 767.
` I don't remember how many passengers it can carry - I know it's more than 200 - and Phil won't tell me. He says to go to the 787 section of the Boeing website, but I can't find it.

` Also, Phil knows nothing of any BWB projects - I figure that's NASA's area, anyway.

Galtron said...

You need to teach that man some discipline!!!

Aaron said...

The BWB is the reason they're not scared of the A380! I know it is! Boeing has had the biggest, bestest passenger aircraft in the sky for, what, about 36 years? I don't believe for a second that they'd just casually give up that title. The next thing you're going to tell me is that they'll stop making the 747 all together.

I agree that previous Boeing wings were born from an efficiency bottom line, but the 787 wings are such a radical departure from previous models. I would assume that the composite construction plays a major role in the wing design.

Isn't this plane going to be too expensive? Are they marketing the maintenance cost savings as a reason to spend more up front?

Your man Phil must have some dicipline, especially if he's keeping mum about the BWB. Everybody knows it's coming. I just hope Boeing will be the first to build it. That project has Boeing written all over it.

Aaron said...

Hey Quine, your blog looks funny when viewed with my version of IE. I use firefox at home, so I hadn't noticed it before. I could fix it if you'd like.

DL Byron said...

Did the Cider also make the transcription incredibly hard to read . . . that's great stuff, just posted on it, but plz consider easing up on the font colors, identifying who's being quoted. Thanks.

S E E Quine said...

` Sorry. That was incredibly sloppy of me, I just didn't have much time to do it. In fact, I haven't been home since yesterday afternoon... but I could do a 'quick fix.'

` I was also in the middle of a completely different post, however, you will probably like... Ze sing ees, I am going again, and so I do not have time to finish eet.

cassie d said...

well i enjoyed your interview. a regular Lois Lane!

As i am about to embark on an aeronautic journey, i wish my airplane will be as comfortable as a 787 - but alas - it's Frontier, so i just hope i ride on a plane with an otter on the side.

that bunny is annoying.

We won't even get peanuts - i'm sure! i heard on NPR that one of the airlines decided to no longer offer peanuts (or any other snack) on their flights, and they've saved a buttload of $ and jobs - just by doing THAT!!!
Whew. That's alot of peanuts.

Do you think the airlines that would purchase the 787 would have peanuts? Let's hope so. But MAYBE that HOW they can AFFORD the plane itself....


S E E Quine said...

` I am finally back!!!!

` Hey, Aaron, I did not know zere was such a problem with my blog on IE - and I did not look because I was rushed yesterday.
` If you could make it look ze same on IE as it does on Mozilla, zat would be much appeciated.
` And, as far as Phil goes, he has to keep quiet about zese things, or risk losing hees job.

` Ah! Cassie! Glad you like zees post! Very amateur, though, no?
` As for peanuts - seenk about it zees way: A 787 could fly halfway around the world, and zat takes time! Zees is what they will be using it for, I'm sure, so zere will be much food.
` And yes, I hope you get zat otter. Ze bunny IS annoying.

` Have a good flight.

Aaron said...

Ya Cas, I agree with Spoony. It seems quite doubtful to me that a 787 would ever be seen at either DEN or MCI. It will become one of those planes that only exist in my dreams - like 747, and A380.

cassie d said...

well, i didn't actually THINK i would be riding on one.....but i bet i'll see one at DIA sometime....they ARE and international airport ya know. And they ALSO lose luggage like CRAZY!!!


and quine -
i didn't think it was amature at all! i found it quite entertaining! i pictured you using your pen to double as a microphone and writing utensil! i also pictured you interviewing right in front of your computer telling your friend to repeat himself as you were typing!
It made me laugh!
Of course, you might not have been doing ANY of those things, but it's fun to dream....


blech! okay. i'll wake up!

S E E Quine said...

` Oh, Cassie, you are simply bubbling over with creativity as usual!

` Actually, the interview was quite incoherant, and Phil had actually toppled down on the bad and was half-asleep and uninterested in what was going on, making it very hard for both of us to continue. (Thankfully, my stupor has lifted since then, and I've been taking this time out to hang with my bestest friends.)
` I'm just an expert in making things sound, ah, more presentable.

` And A-ron, once again, you go into my blog and save eets little ass! MERCI BOKU!!!!! ^^

Aaron said...

De nada Spoony. It was my pleasure.

Do you know that being a part of F.A.R.T. means that you have to put a special section in your sidebar, and you have to have it right below your profile?

S E E Quine said...

` And zees is all I have to do to 'sign up?' or somesing?

` 7:D hmmm...

` (Also, I know, I spelled 'beaucoup' wrong, but it is funner to spell it 'boku'. No? It is a fake French accent, after all!)

Phil said...

Aaron said:

The BWB is the reason they're not scared of the A380! I know it is!

I read Aaron's message, and I figured I'd answer this one on my own. The reason I wasn't going to spill the beans on our position of the A380 was because we were getting ready to launch the in fact with an order for up to 32 of the things from carriers ANC and Cargolux. That's right people - this one isn't getting canceled. No going back from here!!

This is an enhanced 747 that is somewhat longer than the -400 which uses the GENX engines being used on the 787 as well as other enhancements....which I won't go into here. These things are WICKED efficient with a bypass ratio larger than the GE-90s (777 engines) and they had a BPR of 9.5 which is huge!

I think it's supposed to have the same benefits of the A380, but without the need to change around your airport or re-train your pilots and ground crew. Similiar efficiecy but cheaper = good seller. Look at it this way. How many A380s have sold since the start of 2005?

I'm afraid I've heard nothing of plans to build a BWB. There are probably a few good reasons for this which include:
1)The wingspan would be huge requiring even larger gates and airport enhancements than the A380 (and those didn't make airports happy one bit).
2)Dealing with precipitation on top of the aircraft would be interesting. Imagine one landing in a blizzard and getting a few inches of snow on it. Very difficult to clean off.
3)The pressurized section would be heavy because it would deviate from the ideal cylindrical "pressure vessel" shape used on conventional A/C. In this case, you'd get a structure that would pillow out badly on the top and bottom.
4)There are likely concerns about how passengers would take having no windows to see the horizon because in the middle of the plane the best you could get is a skylight. Seeing the horizon is actually a big reason the 787 windows were made so large because without that reference, balance and airsickness problems set in.

Yeah, I agree..It'd be cool. And it would be very efficient with far less parasite drag than your standard tube with wings. Lower induced drag too (drag due to lift). Dosen't look half bad either.

OH, on 787 wings: These babies are composite through and through. The result - they flex A LOT more than alum wings. This is not to say they're weaker, they just bend a lot in flight. Plus the raked tips are blended into the wing nicely on these as opposed to the tips of the 777-300ER,777-200ER,777-200LR. Perhaps they could have a parasite drag improvement....and they can probably just do things with composites they couldn't do with normal materials.