Boeing's 787 Makes Its Inaugural Flight
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.
MICHELE NORRIS, HOST:
And I'm Michele Norris.
When it comes to flying, the thrill is gone. Instead of fun, we now have long lines, TSA pat downs, and legroom that seems to shrink each year. But there was quite a bit of excitement today when Boeing's much-anticipated 787 made a four-hour, eight-minute flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong. The new long-haul jet has been called the iPod of the Sky, with its sleek design and impressive fuel efficiency. The plane is built from lightweight composite plastic reinforced with carbon fibers.
Two-hundred-forty passengers were on today's maiden voyage and we were fortunate to track down one of them. His name is Scott Mayerowitz. He's a reporter for the AP. Welcome to the program.
SCOTT MAYEROWITZ: Thanks for having me.
NORRIS: Do me a favor, first. Describe this plane. What does it look like?
MAYEROWITZ: The very basic, it's a regular plane. But then you walk inside and there's a sort of open arching space. They call it the dome. And your eyes just naturally gravitate up. And there are sort of sleek edges to everything, nice colors, and you suddenly feel like, oh, maybe this isn't going to be so bad. You walk a few rows back, find your seat and there's a giant window next to you. Yeah, the seat is just the same old uncomfortable seat as you've had for many flights. But you got this big window and you're too busy playing with it...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MAYEROWITZ: ...you don't realize what's around you. The overhead bins are really big and you just kind of ease your bag into the bin. You close it and you're sort of looking up at this larger ceiling. The engineers tell me it's not that much higher. But it feels that much higher just because of the way it's designed.
NORRIS: Now, I want to go back to the windows because there's a lot of talk about these windows. They're bigger than the standard, small, sort of 8 x 11 sized windows in most planes. How big are they?
MAYEROWITZ: They are about 30 percent bigger than in a normal plane. And it lets in a lot more light. And the really cool thing, there are no shades on them. If you've got direct sunlight coming in, all you have to do is press a little button and there are five different levels where you can add tint to the window. It's sort of like those sunglasses you see people wear, that to go from clear to very dark in just a few minutes.
NORRIS: Now, the wings on this plane are a little bit different. On take off, they actually move and slightly arc in a way that a bird's wings might. Could you describe that for us?
MAYEROWITZ: It's a little bit of a flapping on the end. And then, as you come into flight, it just curves up. It's really cool. Look out the window and here's a very rigid piece of metal that's holding you and 239 other people up in the air. But yet it's bending in the wind. It's really an interesting sight.
NORRIS: Now, I've been asking you about the plane. I want to know a few things about the passengers. I understand there are people who paid a lot of money to be among the first to take this flight.
MAYEROWITZ: I was amazed. There were 116 passengers on the flight besides a bunch of media and dignitaries. Six of them had actually bid for business-class seats on them. One paid as much as $32,000 for his one seat. And then there was a couple that paid about 19,000 for their pair of seats. And they just said they love to fly. They think this plane is great and they want to be part of history.
NORRIS: Were they satisfied?
MAYEROWITZ: I think so. What I found really funny was they paid all this money for this business-class seat and they were back in coach with everybody else. They wanted to party. They wanted to talk to people. They wanted to experience the plane.
I've never seen such a long line for an aircraft bathroom before. Everyone wanted to check out the bathroom and use it. Part of it is there's a window in there, which is just really cool. And part of it is bigger difference, a lot more quiet bathroom. And these are the type of people who wanted to check that out.
NORRIS: I've been talking to AP reporter Scott Mayerowitz about Boeing's much-anticipated 787, which made its maiden voyage today from Tokyo to Hong Kong. Scott, thanks so much.
MAYEROWITZ: Thanks for having me.
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