OSHKOSH, Wis. -- Marking its public debut in the U.S., Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, the 21st century's first radically different commercial airliner, landed at the AirVenture air show on Friday.
The world's first jetliner made largely of superhardened plastics is still officially "experimental,'' sharing that title with many of the homebuilts and other aircraft on display at the Experimental Aircraft Association's annual week-long show in Oshkosh, Wis. But that similarity will end soon.
The Dreamliner, an ultra-smart plane that Boeing says will achieve a 20 percent improvement in fuel burn compared to planes the same size, is scheduled for delivery to its first customer, Japan's All Nippon Airways, by the end of September, Boeing officials said.
That's three years late. The twin-engine plane that will carry up to 250 passengers has been beset by design and construction problems that caused numerous delays.
But aviation enthusiasts who watched the plane touch down Friday morning at Wittman Regional Airport and then waited in a long line to walk through the interior of the Dreamliner held no grudges.
The plane made two passes, flying low and slow, above the airfield to give the crowd a good look before it touched down.
"I fly a lot, unfortunately usually in the back of the bus, so I'm eager to ride in a plane that's billed as offering more creature comforts in economy (class),'' said Jack Haas of New York. "It's about time, honestly, that the airlines invest in new technology."
Airshow spectators got a first glimpse at features -- ranging from advanced aerodynamics to oversized windows designed to give passengers a view of the horizon from any seat -- that have made the Dreamliner the fastest-selling commercial airliner in Boeing history.
Other amenities intended to improve the flying experience include better airflow and more humidity in the cabin to reduce the effect of jet lag during long flights. The onboard filtration system removes odors, allergens and bacteria.
Upon entering the plane's arched entryway, the tall cabin ceiling creates the impression of the sky. The color and brightness of the ceiling can be controlled by the crew.
The 787 is the first mid-size plane capable of flying long distances, up to 8,200 nautical miles. It will allow airlines to efficiently expand non-stop routes without relying on more fuel-guzzling planes like 747s and 777s, officials said.
Boeing estimates that the 787 can connect more than 450 city pairs that up until now required the range of jumbo jets.
In addition, pollutants emitted from the Dreamliner are 20 percent less than by other similarly sized planes, Boeing officials said.
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