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Boeing's 'game-changer' touches down in Toronto

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The long-delayed new 787 Dreamliner ordered by Air Canada is 'spectacular,' airline's CEO says

BRENT JANG

Calin Rovinescu sees the future of his airline taking shape in the form of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, an innovative long-range plane that will be the centrepiece of Air Canada's international strategy.

"It's a spectacular airplane," the chief executive officer said Friday, after viewing the Dreamliner at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, the first stop in an eight-city North American tour for the jet.

From windows that can be dimmed with a touch of a button to large overhead bins, the plane has been designed for more comfort, while promising to deliver cost savings to carriers such as Air Canada. More than half of the aircraft is built from lightweight composite materials, allowing it to burn 20-per-cent less fuel than similar-sized planes on the market.

Air Canada will take delivery of seven of its 787s in 2014. It has ordered 37 of the planes, which seat 242 to 280 people, depending on the configuration. The preliminary schedule calls for the remaining aircraft to arrive from 2015 to 2019.

Air Canada has a shortlist of potential new flights departing from Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, touting non-stop service to places such as Guangzhou in China and Mumbai in India - tapping into markets deemed too small to make economic sense for the larger Boeing 777. Other possible destinations include Moscow, Buenos Aires and Johannesburg.

Mr. Rovinescu said he likes the 787 cabin's lighting system and larger windows, and the plane's wings that emulate a bird's movement. He praised the jet as a "game-changer" and a "remarkable engineering feat" that incorporates carbon-reinforced plastic.

Karl Moore, a professor at McGill University's Desautels Faculty of Management, also gave the thumbs-up to the Dreamliner's design. "As someone who's six-foot-three, I think it has great headroom and wonderful comfort," Prof. Moore said, noting that Boeing decided against building a jumbo jet to compete directly against the double-decker Airbus A380.

"I think Boeing got this bet right," Prof. Moore said.

Air Canada originally placed its order for 787s in 2005, with delivery targeted for 2010. But a series of production delays dogged Boeing. The Dreamliner made its commercial debut last October, with All Nippon Airways Co. passengers flying from Tokyo to Hong Kong.

More than 800 people, mostly frequent fliers, toured the Dreamliner in Toronto on Friday morning. Nearly 2,000 Air Canada employees and other invited guests lined up in the afternoon.

On Sunday, the 787 on tour will head to Boston. Japan Airlines Corp. plans to offer non-stop service on the Boston-Tokyo route starting in April.

Air Canada (AC.B)

Close: 94¢, down 2¢

*****

CITIES ON AIR CANADA'S SHORT LIST

DREAMLINER'S LONG RANGE

Point to point, from Toronto

787-9

*250,830 kg (maximum takeoff weight)

*280 three-class passengers

787-8

*227,930 kg (maximum takeoff weight)

*242 three-class passengers

Boeing typical mission rules

85% annual winds

Airways and traffic allowances included

787 performance subject to flight test verification

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

SOURCE: BOEING