I cannot remember when it happened, or why, but at some point I developed a keen interest in airliners.  It started slow, but I began to rather randomly follow the commercial airline business, reading some blogs and websites like airliners.net.  I quickly starting scouring trip reports of flyers on different airlines, in first class and economy, reading over what some would perceive as the mundane details of aircraft layout or what the airline lounge offered for food.  Typically, when I try to engage with Julie about something interesting I’ve read about a new aircraft, airline or trip report, my story will be met with an eye roll – I  understand this interest is fairly niche.  (Julie’s Editor’s Note: Just to be clear, I fully support this interest in airlines. However, the trip reports that Drew is referring to are encyclopedic mini-books on each and every detail of a specific person’s flight experience.  Good luck reading one start to finish without an eye roll.)Before booking my latest trip back to the States for Christmas, I became excited about the proposition of flying on the new Boeing 787-900, a brand new aircraft that had just launched with Virgin Atlantic on its Boston to London Heathrow route.  I made my reservation for an itinerary that would route me through Boston on my way home, just so I could experience the new aircraft.  Julie was quick to point out that my decision to pick my flights based on the aircraft (or equipment as most aeronautical enthusiasts would say) is not normal.  Oh well, this is my thing.

Personally, I marvel at the engineering required to build a plane of the size of a 747 or even a 737 that can safely carry hundreds of passengers at 500 mph, composed of millions of parts and miles of wiring.  The fact that a machine that weights hundred of tons can lift off the ground at a speed that a car is capable of driving is mind boggling.  This new aircraft, the 787-900, is the newest plane in the Dreamliner series from Boeing.  The Dreamliner is a departure from typical plane construction in that Boeing relies on hundreds of manufacturers to assembly different parts of the plane, before flying all the parts to the Boeing factory in Everett, WA to be bolted together.  It is essentially pre-fab plane construction.  They are also the first planes to be made from composite materials, rather than aluminum, resulting in a lighter, stronger body that burns 20% less fuel than other planes their size.  The Dreamliner has the potential to change how we fly internationally.  The smaller wide body aircraft with a long range means that instead of only offering international flights from hub-to-hub, secondary cities like Austin, TX can become a viable option (British Airways just started this route from London Heathrow on the smaller 787-800).  Anything that opens up the travel market and makes foreign travel easier and potentially cheaper for everyone is truly exciting.

The interior of the 787 is also features some great changes for the traveler.  The windows are the largest of any plane, making the cabin extremely airy and light.  The overhead bin space has been redesigned to fit more and larger carry-on bags while allowing headroom to be dramatically increased.  The engineers at Boeing even made the interior more humid and lower pressured, easing the effects of jet lag and making the cabin more comfortable for anyone who has ever traveled with a stuffy nose.  The wing design is amazing as well, literally bending upwards during take-off. While not necessarily beneficially to a the travel experience, it does make for a fun spectacle during takeoff if you have a window seat.  The plane is also quieter, making a nap more viable, even when seated near the back of the engines.

My experience on the plane was fantastic.  Part of that was due to the plane, part due to the carrier, Virgin Atlantic.  From London, Virgin is my preferred airline for the journey back to the US.  The staff is friendly, the on-board entertainment is top notch, the economy seats are actually comfortable and recline further and they have fun interior mood lighting (hence the purple tint to the seat photo).  The plane itself is also fantastic.  It is brand new (Virgin received the equipment in November).  The cabin seemed extremely spacious, aided by the well designed overhead bins and the massive windows.  The plane was also noticeably quieter than other planes.  I walked away from my first 787 experience impressed.  Now, I get to look forward to my first time flying on the Airbus A380, the massive double decker plane, on Etihad from London to Abu Dhabi in March. And yes, it was a major reason I choose that itinerary.  And yes, Julie is still not impressed.

To conclude, here are a few fun videos of aircrafts.  Maybe you will get hooked as well:

The power of one Virgin Atlantic 747 engine

What a plane like the 787-900 can really do:
The flex of the 787 wings:
The Etihad A380: