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787 Dreamliner lands in Denver, impresses potential fliers

4:02 PM, Nov 29, 2012   |    comments
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9NEWS Business Reporter Gregg Moss got to tour the new Dreamliner on Thursday afternoon. He was rather impressed with the amenities.

The 787-8 Dreamliner will carry up to 250 passengers on routes of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles, while the 787-9 Dreamliner will carry nearly 300 passengers on routes of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles.

The 787 uses 20 percent less fuel than today's similarly-sized airplanes. It will also travel at a similar speed as today's fastest wide bodies, Mach 0.85. 

Boeing's 787 is the first commercial aircraft made out of plastic - or carbon-fiber composites - instead of the traditional aluminum. The last time the aviation world saw a shift of this magnitude was in the 1930s, when planes transitioned from a wood to a metal base.

The new jet's name implies a flight experience of luxury and comfort.

And while the plane is an aesthetic delight, the long-haul, international flights will truly test the physical benefit that passengers supposedly experience.

One of the key factors for the improved customer comfort is the aircraft's pressurization system. Because of the composite structure, the plane is stronger, so the cabin can pressurize at 6,000 feet as opposed to the traditional 8,000 feet. As a result, each passenger purportedly absorbs 8 percent more oxygen during flight.

Couple that with the plane's humidifying process, which adds moisture into a notoriously dry environment, as well as the HEPA filters that purify the air, and the Dreamliner is expected to leave passengers with less fatigue, headaches and swelling.

The overhead bins are 30 percent larger, and each passenger has a power outlet to charge electronics and access to twice as much air conditioning.

United Airlines successfully flew its first commercial flight of the new plane Nov. 4, from Houston to Chicago. The plane holds the potential to significantly affect the metro-Denver market.

United will open the first nonstop route between Denver and any Asian market when it begins Denver-to-Tokyo service April 1, an endeavor that is economically feasible with the Dreamliner's help.

"If we flew the 777 on that route, we'd have our head handed to us," said Jeff Smisek, United's chief executive, aboard the inaugural flight. "In terms of costs, it would never be worth it."

On Thursday, United flew the 787 between its domestic hubs - including Denver International Airport - prior to launching its first international route from Houston to Lagos, Nigeria, in December.

Jeff Smisek, United's chief executive, recognizes that, while United holds the largest market share at DIA - 39 percent - it is also one of its most competitive markets.

"Denver is a tough place to do business in airlines,]" Smisek said. "But nothing shows commitment like the 787. It should benefit Denver's economy, which should improve our opportunity."

Smisek wouldn't comment on expansion plans for Denver but said he wants to see whether Denver will latch on and support the Tokyo route.

Kristen Leigh Painter with The Denver Post contributed to this article.

(KUSA-TV © 2012 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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