Air Canada has invited frequent fliers and media to take a look Tuesday at the carrier's first Boeing 787 Dreamliner, but here is a sneak peek after a Globe and Mail reporter boarded a flight from Everett, Wash., to Toronto. Here are six highlights.
Takeoff and landing:
The carbon-fibre wings flexed up at takeoff from Everett and down on descent to Toronto on Sunday. This flexibility helps make the Dreamliner more fuel efficient, not to mention it's cool to see the plane's wings try to mimic a bird. Even a couple of Air Canada employees who sat in front of me marvelled at the aerodynamics.
The windows are 30 per cent larger on the Dreamliner than similar-sized planes. There is an LED switch that you press to darken or lighten your 787 window. Hello electrochromatic window shades, goodbye manual ones. We landed in Toronto to the greeting of a water cannon salute. Boeing says the windows are the largest of any plane today – all the better to look outside as the cannon sprays Air Canada's new 787.
There are 251 seats – 210 in economy, 21 in premium economy and 20 in business class. There is a nine-inch touchscreen on the back of seats in economy, 10.6-inch screen in premium economy and 18-inch screen in business class. I sat in seat 21K, a window seat, and found there to be sufficient legroom due to some tweaks in the design of the seat in front and less padding. Of course, after I strayed into a larger seat in premium economy, I got jealous. And then, there are those lie-flat pods in business class, where passengers can use a duvet to get cozy.
There is more headroom in the cabin because the overhead bins have been redesigned. My standard-size carry-on luggage even fit putting it in wheels first. No need to turn the bag sideways or flip it around to have the front pockets facing down to somehow squeeze luggage in. There were 126 people on the flight from Boeing's Everett plant to the Toronto hangar, including four pilots and 14 flight attendants. Admittedly, that made the trip seem more spacious, but frequent fliers will notice the roomier feel, even on a full flight.
We were told that the cabin air on the 787 should leave us less jet-lagged, and that turned out to be the case. Boeing says the credit goes to a system called gaseous filtration. Also, the atmosphere on the plane is the equivalent of 6,000 feet above sea level, compared with 8,000 feet on older airplanes. In reality, the Dreamliner cruises at nearly 43,000 feet, but the cabin feels like it's at an altitude at a much lower level.
The cabin lighting is a feature touted by Boeing, although it didn't make a big splash on this trip since we were flying during the daytime within North America. The full effect will be much more noticeable on longer overseas flights to ease your transition to a new time zone when you wake up, or as you go to sleep on a long-haul trip. I saw a demonstration at the Dreamliner Gallery in Everett, and can attest that when switched on, the cabin lighting is groovy.