Crowds cheered as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner took off on its highly anticipated maiden commercial voyage from Tokyo's Narita airport to Hong Kong.
This day may be three years behind schedule, but to many aviation enthusiasts, it was worth the wait. Stephanie Wood and her husband Dean of Florida bought two business class tickets for $18,700 at a charity auction.
It's silly, but it's a little piece of history. New cars come out all the time but how often do new planes come out? Wood told The Associated Press.
Wood and her husband weren't the biggest spenders for the short, four-hour journey, others on board spent upwards of $30,000 at All Nippon Airways' charity auctions to be a part of aviation history.
Economy seats on the inaugural trip sold for 78,700 yen (about $1,035), compared to the $300-$400 a midweek flight would cost on other airlines. Only 100 of these seats were sold, although more than 25,000 people applied for them. Remaining seats for the voyage went to journalists and industry officials.
Passengers were greeted with ceremonies and performances in both cities. Those aboard swapped stories of other inaugural flights they'd been on, as a rainbow of color hues shifted inside the cabin.
Travelers on the plane also enjoyed the extra comfort features of the Dreamliner. One of the most noticeable is the windows that are 30% bigger and feature an automatic tint, instead of the standard pull-down. Other new features include individual touchscreen entertainment centers, larger overhead bins, and less exterior noise.
The cabin pressure on the new jet can be kept at a lower altitude of 6,000ft instead of 8,000ft. Passengers aboard felt the difference of the lower cabin pressure through the amount of humidity in the air, which should cut down dry throat and nose symptoms.
Airlines are hoping the biggest change with the Dreamliner will be costs. The carbon-composite body is expected to cut fuel costs by 20%. Most airlines will fly the plane of long-haul thin routes, those that are in regular demand, but don't often fill up. The 787 is more efficient than flying a jumbo jet on these routes, as it only carries 210-250 passengers.
All Nippon Airways will begin to use the Dreamliner for this purpose on Jan. 21, 2011 when it will begin its first service from Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan to Frankfurt, Germany. The ability to connect long-haul smaller cities is the reason the jet is in such high demand.
The creation of the Dreamliner was a bumpy ride; the original Boeing plan in 2001 was for a Sonic Cruise, a plane designed for speed. As gas prices nearly tripled, Boeing decided to create not a faster, but a more gas efficient plane. The last few years of development haven't been easy between the strikes in 2008 and an electrical fire during a test run last November.
Boeing had a backlog of 821 orders in the three year delay, before 24 were cancelled by China Eastern Airlines due to the wait. The company hopes to produce 10 airlines a month by 2013.
Airlines are, if anything, even more keen to get their hands on the aircraft. The advanced technology used in the 787 means that, in spite of the delays, it is still ahead of its time, Paul Sheridan, head of risk advisory at aviation consultancy Ascend, told Reuters.
Have a look at the inaugural voyage below: