The Dream Flies On

Solv­ing prob­lems is just part of the job de­scrip­tion for the travel in­dus­try

Business Traveler (USA) - - TALKING POINT - — Dan Booth Edi­to­rial Di­rec­tor

In a piece of good news for the Boe­ing Com­pany, the 60 air­lines who have or­dered 873 of its new­est planes and the global travel in­dus­try in gen­eral, the Dream­liner took to the air again at the end of April. That was the first time the ad­vanced 787 had flown since the Jan. 17 stand-down that or­dered the en­tire fleet grounded.You’ll re­call that was in re­sponse to two mys­te­ri­ous in­ci­dents (which re­main mysteries as of this writ­ing), in­volv­ing smoke and fire in the lithium-ion bat­ter­ies that pro­vide power to crit­i­cal sys­tems on the fly-by-wire jet­liner.

Ap­prox­i­mately 50 of the ad­vanced Dream­lin­ers had al­ready been de­liv­ered to 10 air­lines when the bat­tery prob­lems sur­faced. The lights were burn­ing late into the night in Everett, WA, as Boe­ing engi­neers and the FAA de­vised a re­design for the bat­tery sys­tem. Then at the end of April, the Fed­eral Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion OK’d the fix and is­sued an air­wor­thi­ness direc­tive that cleared the way for the re­sump­tion of reg­u­lar ser­vice aboard the air­craft.

Fi­nally, af­ter nu­mer­ous test flights, the air­plane maker and avi­a­tion reg­u­la­tors around the world ex­pressed sat­is­fac­tion that the mod­i­fi­ca­tions met rig­or­ous safety re­quire­ments, and on Satur­day, April 27, Ethiopian Air­lines be­came the first car­rier since Jan­uary to loft a 787 car­ry­ing a plane full of pas­sen­gers — in­clud­ing Boe­ing vice pres­i­dent Randy Tin­seth — from Ad­dis Ababa to Nairobi.

Since then, seven other car­ri­ers who al­ready have 787s on their ros­ters have an­nounced sched­ules for re­turn­ing the plane to ser­vice. Ev­ery­body wants to see this air­craft at work again. And a look at the num­bers re­veals the rea­son: The Dream­liner is the most-or­dered air­craft in the his­tory of com­mer­cial avi­a­tion – 50 have al­ready been de­liv­ered, more than 800 are on the or­der books and air­lines are queu­ing up to buy more. The air­craft is lighter weight, more fuel ef­fi­cient, and of­fers fea­tures not found on any other jet­liner. Boe­ing char­ac­ter­izes the 787 as a game-changer, and both the com­pany and the avi­a­tion in­dus­try are bet­ting heav­ily on it.

So the Dream­liner’s bat­tery prob­lems were more than a blow to the avi­a­tion gi­ant or to the multi-bil­lion dol­lar in­dus­try it serves; I took it as a per­sonal af­front. Af­ter all, ev­ery is­sue of Busi­ness Trav­eler is about mak­ing jour­neys go smoother and cre­at­ing more value for you, our read­ers.

For ex­am­ple, take a look on page 18, where you’ll find 50 Ways to Make Travel Hap­pier. It’s our col­lec­tion of fun and thought­pro­vok­ing ideas for mak­ing your time on the road more valu­able and more en­joy­able. There are ideas here I’d never thought of be­fore, and oth­ers – well, some­times you just need a re­minder.

The point is, not one of those 50 ideas said any­thing like,“Worry about the com­plex­ity of the travel in­dus­try.”We sel­dom give much thought to the mil­lions of parts in an air­liner, or what it takes to keep a 700-room ho­tel run­ning, or all the peo­ple be­hind the scenes at a global rental car com­pany. In­stead, we hop on a plane, ar­rive at our ho­tel, park our rented car and go about our busi­ness as though noth­ing ex­tra­or­di­nary had hap­pened. For the most part, the vast en­deavor that is travel just keeps hum­ming along.

So un­less you’re a glut­ton for pun­ish­ment who, be­fore you take a flight, goes out and rents The High and the Mighty or Snakes on a Plane, or even watches re­runs of the old Twi­light Zone episode where Wil­liam Shat­ner chews the scenery even as an ugly grem­lin chews on the wing of his air­liner, you prob­a­bly don’t give much thought to all that goes into mak­ing your trip work. But re­ally, you should. Next time you’re on the road, take note of all the play­ers who are mak­ing your trip not merely pos­si­ble, but en­joy­able and prof­itable as well. It’s an in­tri­cate and won­der­ful ballet of tech­nol­ogy and lo­gis­tics and peo­ple.

And now the Dream­liner has re­turned to the dance. BT

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