Passenger Aircraft In Our Future

TRAVEL TALK

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You may have read about some of the new aircraft headed our way.

Boeing has been advertising its new 787, which is scheduled to fly late December of this year. They call it the Dreamliner, as it promises to expend 20 percent less fuel than today's airliners. It will have less metal and a lot more of so-called composites. Lighter weight means less fuel burn. The materials used are: 50 percent composites; 20 percent aluminum; 15 percent titanium, 10 percent steel; 5 percent other.

The 787's range will be in the neighborhood of 8,200 nautical miles, permitting it to fly a third of the way around the world without refueling. Inside, the plane will offer a two-aisle configuration, allowing airlines to carry up to 250 people in three classes. Already, Boeing has orders for more than 700 aircraft and the plane has yet to fly. It is the most successful preflight aircraft in the history of commercial aviation.

And, you have probably seen news clips of the Airbus A-380. This plane has been flying on a test basis for almost two years and is expected to go into service for commercial carriers in 2008. The A-380 can carry 525 passengers in a three-class configuration, along with perhaps some onboard shops, a gym and maybe even some private compartments. Each airline will order its own interiors. Being so large, this aircraft will only be used on long hauls.

What will it be like at the check-in gate for the A-380? Many movie theaters today seat less than 500 people. I wonder if I want to be part of the mass crowding process of boarding and un-boarding. Then, there is the mob at the baggage claim areas. We'll see.

The Boeing 747 has been in commercial service since 1969 in various models and the company is now planning to build another revised version called the 747-8, which will be a little longer than the current 747-400 and offer many new modifications. To date most of the orders for this aircraft are from airlines planning to use them as cargo carriers.

Airbus is also designing and already taking orders for its new A-350, which will be roughly the same size as Boeing's 787. The difference is, Boeing will begin delivering its 787 to airlines in late 2008, while Airbus won't be able to deliver its A-350 until sometime in 2013 or 2014.

The regional jet is taking its place with the airlines and you may have flown in one during the last eight years. Bombardier and Embraer are the leading manufacturers of the "RJ's" and already hundreds of units are in our skies. These planes carry less than 100 passengers and are principally used in point-to-point flights between smaller markets. They are often operated by airlines most of us have seldom heard of. U.S. Airways contracts with Arizona's Mesa Airlines to fly its "RJ" services, branded as U.S. Airways Express. American Airlines flies them under the banner of American Eagle and so on. Some major airlines fly as many as one third of their fleets with regional jets.

Embraer, located in Brazil, is now delivering to airlines their new 170 and 190 models. These resemble the smaller 737's and A-318's and you may not recognize them as Embraer equipment.

The airline business is big and getting bigger. These newer aircraft are in our future for many years to come. Perhaps your next flight will be on one of these new planes. Enjoy!

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