Virgin Atlantic launched their new Boeing 787 Dreamliner this October to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their first transatlantic voyage. The new aircraft boasts improvements to in-flight service, reliability and passenger comfort – but it’s also expected to be significantly better for the environment.
In our interview with Virgin’s Sian Foster, we run through the aircraft’s key features, and see how technological advances let Boeing create a plane that’s 21% more fuel efficient than similar-sized aircraft.
Composite materials make weight savings of 20%
Boeing engineers analysed every part of the aircraft’s body – the materials used and the stresses and loads they’re expected to withstand – to carefully select the best materials for each section of the aircraft. The result is an aircraft that makes more use of composite materials (such as carbon fibre-reinforced plastic) instead of aluminium than any other commercial Boeing aircraft (so far!).
That means that our new Dreamliner fleet is lighter and more efficient – needing less fuel to make the same journeys. We’re anticipating that the 787-9s will be about 21% more fuel and carbon efficient on a per trip basis than similar-sized aircraft. Once all 16 aircraft are in our fleet (by 2018), they’ll make up 40% of our fleet, so will make a big impact on reducing our carbon footprint.
Less time in maintenance means fewer delays
The extensive use of composite materials – as opposed to previous aluminium-based designs – should also help cut the time we spend on maintenance between flights.
When analysing their other aircraft models, Boeing found that the composite tail of the 777 required 35% fewer labour hours for maintenance than the 767’s aluminium tail – despite being 25% larger.
Due to the reduced risk of damage and stress associated with composite materials, and the reduction in repair times for minor damage, a fleet of 787s should need much less time spent in maintenance. And that means Virgin Atlantic can get their planes – and you, our passengers – back in the skies with minimal delay.
Advanced engine technology means less noise
Most engine noise comes from the mixing of hot air from the engine core with cooler air from its fan. In keeping with the commitments made in our Noise Management Strategy, the new Dreamliner fleet is expected to have a significantly reduced noise footprint when compared to similar-sized aircraft.
The Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 – the engine chosen by Boeing to power the 787 – features a jagged saw-tooth edge at the rear of the jets. These chevrons smooth the mixing of hot air from the engine core with cooler air from the engine fan, reducing the usual noisy turbulence produced by the mixing.
This noise-reducing technology is expected to lead to a 60% smaller noise footprint than other planes of comparable size – which is great news for those onboard and for communities near airports.
In fact, we’ve just become the first ever airline to be awarded the prestigious Quiet Mark certification for our 787-9s.
The first Virgin Atlantic Dreamliner made its debut voyage from Heathrow to Boston in October, with plans to make regular voyages six times a week. Virgin Atlantic also plans to roll out 15 new aircraft over the next four years.