Flying ANA's Dreamliner to Tokyo
Does the 787 Dreamliner represent the great new era in travel Boeing would have us believe?
My first impression on boarding the plane for All Nippon Airways' inaugural flight to Tokyo Tuesday was not a good one. Sure, the ceilings are high, but the business class seat to which I was directed—I’m told the tickets cost upward of $5,000—certainly didn’t seem to match the price. The slimmer baggage bins overhead and high ceilings make the cabin seem more spacious, but look down, and the cabin seems to be covered with rows of tiny office cubicles placed back to back. Sitting down in my window seat, I felt a little squeezed between the high tray on my left and the window on my right.
But once the plane took off, I began to feel the difference. The sun coming through the unusually large window was blinding as we took off, but rather than close the shades, I was able to darken the glass at the push of a button, cutting the glare yet still allowing me to enjoy the view as we flew north along Lake Washington, then curved left toward the west.
My seat was right above the engine, yet even as the plane climbed steeply to reach cruising altitude, it emitted little more than a muffled roar. Above the engine, the wing fluttered gently like a bird's. I never felt my ears pop, thanks to the composite structure of the plane which, I’m told, allows the cabin to be pressurized closer to what humans prefer. My sinuses still seemed dry, but I didn’t get the parched throat that often bothers me on flights.
So is this a revolution in travel? That’s asking an awful lot of a new-model airplane. I was born and raised in Japan, and I’ve seen some pretty amazing advances. As a child, I often traveled by ocean freighter to visit my grandparents in California, a trip that took a week to 10 days, depending on the weather. The first Boeing 707 aircraft allowed us to make that trip in a day, stopping in Hawaii to refuel. Of course, the planes were noisy and shook so much in turbulence you thought they were going to come apart. It was almost always a pretty unpleasant flight, though preferable to being on stormy seas aboard a freighter. Things kept improving until the arrival of the Boeing 747, when it