ANA Boeing 787 Dreamliner Inaugural Flight Commemorative Certificate
This is an excerpt from the webmaster, Chris Sloan's article on the Inaugural Passenger Revenue Flight of the Boeing 787 in the February, 2012 issue of "Airways" Magazine. These images were taken on the October 27, 2011 flight from Hong Kong back to Tokyo Narita. Images from the inaugural flight are on the ANA Dreamliner Inaugural Gallery on Airchive.com. Though the Dreamliner was 3 ½ years late entering service, ANA wasn't about to accept anything less than an on-time inaugural departure time. Passengers were allowed brief photo opportunities in front of the Dreamliner and a commemorative banner before being ushered up the stairs. With commemorative boarding passes around our necks (and cameras), we boarded through the number one door forward of the business cabin galley, instead of through the number two door which is Boeing's recommended entry door where the bar is located. We entered through the business cabin arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration with 2 rows of seats. This aircraft, along with JA802, are configured in the temporary domestic arrangement of 12-business class and 252 economy class seats. The business cabin seats feature a 62" pitch and 21" width. The economy seats, arranged in a very generous 2-4-2 configuration (with 3-3-3 considered standard) each have a pitch of 31" and width of 17". ANA decided to specify individual armrests for the middle seats resulting in 2" between those seats. This space, along with the very high ceilings contributed to the initial impressions of spaciousness, even with the mass of passengers milling about, their luggage, and the press' camera equipment creating congestion. The massive overhead bins, as advertised, easily swallowed all the carry-on articles up. Of note, once the first two 787s switch from domestic to the regional Asian configuration, additional rows of business class seats will be added in place of economy seating. The international long-haul configurations will feature ANA's outstanding staggered long-haul business class "Inspiration of Japan" product with 158 seats spread over two classes. Another immediate impression upon boarding was the large amount of natural light allowed in by the big windows, some thirty percent larger than a Boeing 777. The gracious cabin crew, of which there were ten on duty as opposed to the normal compliment of six, politely asked everyone to be seated in hopes of an on-time departure. The aircraft ended up pushing back three minutes late at 12:23pm, which was miraculous given all the activity. The traditional water cannon salute followed just after engine startup. At 12:41pm, NH 7871 piloted by Yuichi Marui, ANA director of 787 operations and Masami Tsukamoto, who was the first ANA pilot to fly the 787, began its roll down Tokyo Narita's runway 34L. The take-off seemed to be de-rated on the pair of Rolls Royce Trent 1000A's, perhaps to further accentuate their quiet noise footprint. In place of the roar of the Rolls', we heard a somewhat soothing, low background drone of the 787's electrical systems. The Dreamliner employs new electric technology to power many systems reducing the bleed air requirements on the engines. Once we lifted off after a leisurely take-off roll, the airplane did become very noisy, not from the engines but from the cacophony of clicking of camera shutters and loud round of applause. Three minutes into flight, the throttles were pulled back to climb power as we made our way to 37,975 feet and a cruising speed of 431 kt (798 km/h, 496 mph). It was an absolute picture-perfect day for flying with very light winds and no weather en-route. Our four-hour, eight-minute flight plan took us southwest over Honshu, the main island of Japan; then over the Japanese Islands of Shikoku and KyÅ«shÅ«, the East China Sea, Taiwan, and into Check Lap Kok and Lantau Islands where Hong Kong International Airport is located. On the way up to cruise, Captain Marui addressed the P/A reminding everyone this was the world's first passenger flight of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and how happy they were that this moment had arrived. With the air silky smooth, the seatbelt signs then came off and the celebratory atmosphere / press spectacle really kicked in. The very gracious and patient, specially selected ANA cabin crew somehow managed to serve drinks during this melee of passengers and press. Some remarked that it wasn't quite the party atmosphere of previous inaugurals but this might've been because the business cabin was closed off, and many of the Japanese passengers were more subdued than the boisterous western passengers. I for one, felt like a kid in a candy store, and it was time to get down to business and sample all the wizardry. In talking to fellow passengers, the windows were clearly the immediate hit! I could easily see outside the enormous 19" X 11" windows, placed just a little above waist level, on the opposite side of the eighteen-foot wide cabin. I can confirm in-flight that the windows provide a panoramic view, creating a connection with the sky outside, reducing claustrophobia as well as the need to crane one's neck to look outside of them regardless of where one sits. The electrical window tinting performed flawlessly dimming from 100% transparent to nearly the opaque position in thirty seconds. The cabin lighting was set between shades of calming blue and orange with the transition very subtle. Few passengers desire turbulence, but in this case many were hoping for a little less "perfect" day to test out the turbulence-dampening, gust suppression systems where accelerometers in the plane's nose will register a sudden drop and send a signal through fiber-optic cables to the wings. What would have been a 9-foot drop is supposedly cut to 3. On descent and the return flight, we did register some chop from winds and cloud and the Dreamliner did seem to react with a smoother ride, similar as if we were driving down a cobble street. I was watching the control surfaces on the beautiful raked wing adjust in the chop - that was a real treat! The wings were the best in-flight entertainment I could ask for, but the Panasonic in-flight entertainment system (IFE) cried out to be demoed. Beyond the typical on-demand music and video offerings, this IFE offered seat-to-seat chatting and email, and very high-resolution multi-functional air maps, inspired by Google maps. The passenger can select multiple views and levels of detail. The USB port did seem to be charging my iPOD, but I was not able to playback its music or photos on the system screen. The economy seats were firm, but comfortable but instead of reclining the bottom cushion moves back and forth which creates the same affect but doesn't impede the space for the passenger sitting behind. Gino allowed me to sample his business class "throne" which reclined to a near flat position. These business class seats were not the lie-flat long-haul product. Behind the scenes Boeing 787 VP/GM explained that the 787 was collecting flight data and transmitting it back to Seattle via satellite every 15 minutes. The technological marvels even extended to the seven lavatories with features I wasn't aware of prior to the flight. Upon entering the lavs, the door pivots inward to avoid blocking aisles or the interior of the bathroom; the dark blue lavatory lighting transforms to a brighter daylight hue. Instead of flushing the toilet with a handle, one runs their hand over a sensor that triggers the toilet seat to mechanically close before flushing. As Thomas Lee explained to me, whose company designed the system, this creates a vacuum that attenuates the flushing sound considerably, but also cuts water consumption in half & another Dreamliner weight saving innovation! One of the lavatories dubbed "Loo with a view", designed to accommodate handicapped passengers, even has a window and unique to the Dreamliner & the sole conventional window shade. The big question most everyone had on their minds was would we notice more comfortable conditions with the lower pressurization and higher humidity levels, unique to the composite built Dreamliner. Most concluded they didn't feel any difference or it was too subtle. The prevailing opinion was that this would make more of a difference on a long-haul flight than a 4-½ sector. Many did remark how much fresher and cleaner the air smelled and felt which is not surprising with the air conditioning packs being driven electrically than through engine bleed. "Ahhhh, there's nothing like a new plane smell", said Gino Bertuccio. The quiet cabin during cruise was very noticeable as well. ANA has a world-class reputation for exquisite service, and the Dreamliner inaugural was the perfect opportunity to showcase it. Even in economy, we were served sumptuous meals and drinks. The Japanese menu consisted of an appetizer of fried gristles of squid, dried baby shrimp and cabbage salad, a hot entrée of a hot entrée' of pork belly ragout in Soy-based sauce, grilled salmon sushi, and custard for desert. The western meal started with an appetizer of marinated salmon and baby shrimp accompanied by beef and pork pastrami and was then followed by a fresh garden salad, a seafood gratin main course, and custard for desert. Both meals were topped off with a commemorative "We Fly First" ANA 787 Inaugural cookie. I personally couldn't eat mine as I tried to preserve it unsuccessfully as a souvenir. The standup bar between business and economy became the social hub of the flight and was put to good use with an array of snacks and beverages. As wonderful as the food and beverage service were, the hospitality of the crews left even an bigger impression. They were incredibly gracious and attentive in exceeding service expectations while navigating all the passengers in the aisles, myself included. A rather delightful touch was when ANA President and CEO Shinichiro Ito, spent nearly the entire flight personally talking to every passenger he could. What is an inaugural flight without the requisite souvenir swag? Well, of course, everything not nailed down from menus to safety cards to even headphones automatically became a souvenir, but ANA's hospitality extended to the gift envelopes which in true egalitarian style were the same for both classes. The airline marked the occasion with such items as a clever 787 wooden book mark, laminated first flight commemorative boarding passes coupled with a 787 lanyard, the same 787 scarves handed out at the delivery ceremony in Everett, and even a Dreamliner USB thumb drive. Additionally, elaborate books of 787 stamps were available for purchase from Duty Free. At 3:20pm Hong Kong time, the pilots eased back on the throttles of the Trents signaling our initial descent into Hong Kong International Airport. With a definite sense of showmanship, the flight attendants foreshadowed something special was about to happen by remotely dimming all the electrically shaded windows to their darkest position. The dynamic LED "mood lighting" system, which normally mimics the natural progression of daylight, presented the flight's crescendo: within seconds, the cabin was transformed from a subtle, pink hue into a psychedelic "Disco Inferno" composed of the full color spectrum of light. The entire flight burst into an appreciative applause at this surreal, "seventies" sight. After this unexpected treat, the cabin lighting transformed to the bright take-off level then the seat belt signs turned on as we descended through mid-level clouds and light chop on our approach into Hong Kong. The IFE actually showed a detailed aerial map of the airport as we flew low over the South China Sea on finals. At 3:52pm local time, 4 hrs, 8 min. after departing Tokyo, the world's maiden passenger voyage of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner "greased" onto runway 7L with a textbook landing; thunderous applause once again echoed around the cabin. Immediately after turning off 7L, ANA flight 7871 was greeted in style with a two water cannon salute. This was to be expected, but the ceremonial Wutan lion dance, pounding drums, and the swarm of people greeting us on the tarmac left a major impression on everyone. As we descended the stairs, even the most jaded among us could not help but be impressed and moved by this display. ANA Captains Maurui and Tsukamoto, who had not left the cabin the entire flight and almost seemed to sneak down the stairs to avoid attention, were given a spontaenous massive round of applause as they departed the flight deck for the press conference. The duo seemed slightly embarrassed and caught off guard at this outpouring.