The Dream Flies On
Solving problems is just part of the job description for the travel industry
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