(October 2011) Shortly after retrieving credentials at the media counter, I glanced at my BlackBerry display. The time was 0830. Good deal. I had an hour of free time to wander around the nooks and crannies of EAA AirVenture before the scheduled arrival of the 787.
After concluding that I really didn’t need to agonize over a decision to purchase a wooden miniature of a 777 as an addition to my office dust-clutter collection, I began to walk toward the flight line. A whooshing sound caught my attention. A Boeing airplane with the identifiable blue and white logo whispered majestically above the runway. Its composite wings characteristically curved upward as it climbed after completing a low approach. Way cool. I smiled. Wouldn’t you know it?
The boys and girls from Seattle were early. Not wanting to miss a photo op amid the crowded frenzy of the tow-in to ConocoPhillips Plaza, I increased my pace from a fast walk to a jog.
Oohing and aahing to myself, I admired the sheer aesthetic beauty of the airplane as it rolled forward on the taxiway toward the awaiting tug. Although still a hulking presence, it was smaller than the 777 that I fly at my day job, but it had a more futuristic appeal. Perhaps the futuristic appearance could be attributed to the larger cockpit windows and the elongated passenger windows. Adding to the unique quality was the absence of the traditional aft sliding window at the pointy end. The shark tooth scallops at the aft end of the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engine cowls completed the look.
After clicking off a few shots with my camera, I trotted away, grateful with the thought that I had been fortunate to have secured both a media tour and an interview with a Boeing test pilot.
Much about the 787 design has become public knowledge among aviation enthusiasts. It has almost become old news. My focus was to learn more about the airplane’s flight characteristics compared to the 777. In addition, the background and perspective of a test pilot would provide great insight for a new generation of state-of-the-art, composite-constructed, electronic airliners. Considering the fact that my company has a delivery scheduled for 2014, it might be the last time in my career that I’d get to fly an airplane off the showroom floor. (The 757 was my first.) And with a 777 type rating on my certificate, the word from the FAA is that a satisfactory completion of Boeing’s provisionally approved five-day differences training will entitle me to have 787 printed on my license.
Although the test pilot for my interview was not directly involved with the 787 program, his credentials were unprecedented. Capt. Steve Taylor is president of Boeing Business Jets, which makes the BBJ, the corporate version of the 737. The fact that Taylor has no military background, like myself, made his participation that much more interesting.