Boeing's Future Finally Takes Flight as the
Lucky Few Report the News Live from KPAE
As the minutes clicked off towards Dreamliner's planned launch, it seemed everyone on Twitter was a WX forecaster. I saw numerous tweets insisting the ceiling had lowered sufficiently to scrub the first flight attempt. Wrong they were, but it did ramp up the intensity of the moment. Then, when ZA001 actually started moving, scores of Tweeps chronicled every inch of that movement. "Confirmed: wheels moving, taxi has commenced!", or "OMG OMG OMG It's rounding the turn of the apron headed for the taxiway!!!!!!" But the real fun began when the flight took off. More than one Tweepster compared this event to the Wright's first flight, a stretch, but still worth a grin. Another insisted (with all caps) that the first flight was "more significant than Neil Armstrong's first steps on the moon." Uh. Huh.
I have written before about a lecture I attended a few years ago at the University of Oregon when Burt Rutan was speaker. His topic was commercial space travel, and how it was the next achievable milestone in aviation. The first obviously was the Wrights, which got things started. Next was the DC-3, which made coast-to-coast flights a reality. Next, it was the 747, which opened up the world to international flights. But he stopped there, saying that nothing since the 747 has been that "next big thing" that aviation needs. His theory is that his SpaceShipTwo will be that next milestone, making flights through space to the other side of the planet quick and smooth. I agree with his thinking, which is why I must say the 787 Dreamliner – while easily the most sophisticated and sexy airliner flying today – is not a game changer, it's instead more of a industry changer. Years from now when flights on a -87 are as common as trips on a CRJ are now, we'll look back on all the fuel saved by the Dreamliner and thank Boeing's engineers for making such an efficient ship that raised the bar so much higher in terms of providing comfortable air travel with substantially less damage to the environment.