Back in 2005, the 787 made headlines when a video was released of a prototype making what appeared to be a nearly completely vertical takeoff from a runway in Washington. Boeing was prepping for the upcoming Paris Air Show, and this slightly misleading video was great publicity for them. An incredulous public thought the 787 would be executing military-like takeoffs. Thankfully, they were wrong.
The camera was placed in such a way that the angle looks way steeper than it actually was. Even removing the visual trickery, the 787 did take off at a frighteningly steep angle. This was a testament to the plane’s design. However, the 787 does not take off at extreme angles during routine flights.
The stunt was possible only because there were no passengers or cargo aboard, allowing it to pull off the insane angle of takeoff. Typical takeoff angle is about twenty degrees, a much more civilized and less white-knuckle angle for non-adrenaline-junkie passengers. Boeing would probably not be able to recoup the losses if they were to perform these kinds of takeoffs – they may be a big company but they probably couldn’t survive being sued by every single person who flew with them.
While the 787 represents a great advance for air travel, it’s not without its issues. In 2013, a Japan Airlines 787 flight had problems with a fuel leak and a flight out of Boston had to be cancelled. Soon thereafter, a United Airlines 787 developed a wiring problem near the main battery bank. The problems were significant enough to lead the National Transportation Safety Board to open a probe into the 787’s fitness for flight. A bit later, yet another 787 experienced a fuel leak.
Because 787s are very long, they are at increased risk for a phenomenon called “tail striking,” in which the tail hits the runway during takeoff. In order to compensate, Boeing designed the 787 to have a semilevered landing gear that permits rotation over the rear wheels.
A tail strike usually occurs due to a pilot pulling up too quickly during takeoff. The tail or back of the fuselage can make contact with the runway. Obviously, this can be very frightening. Tail striking can also occur during landing if the pilot pulls the nose up too quickly at the wrong time.
Inside the 787, there is room to breathe. The cabins are about eighteen feet wide. Economy seats are as large as 19 inches wide. The majority of the planes in service utilize a nine-abreast seating arrangement, meaning each row is broken into small rows of three, with two aisles between them. This common configuration is economical in terms of space usage inside the fuselage, but it can still be a little cramped on long flights.
The very first 787-9 carried Rolls Royce engines.
The plane’s exterior is more sophisticated than it may appear.