Copyright 2014 David Eyre
Air New Zealand celebrated the first Boeing 787 Dreamliner service to Perth on 12 September 2014, with the arrival of Boeing 787-9 ZK-NZE in a special all-over black paint scheme, operating the NZ175/176 service between Auckland and Perth.
Flight NZ175 took off from Auckland at 14:39 Auckland time (10:39 Perth time), and landed on Perth’s runway 24 at 17:22 Perth time, a flight time of 6 hours 43 minutes, around 40 minutes early. It took off from Perth at 9:26pm back to Auckland, arriving there at 7:12am (Auckland time) the next morning, with flight time of 5 hours 45 minutes.
The airline planned replacing the previous scheduled Boeing 777-200ER on Auckland a day by day basis from 12 September 2014 until 15 October when it is guaranteed daily on from 12 September, transitioning to guaranteed daily 787 Auckland-Perth services from 15 October 2014, when their second 787 would be delivered.
ZK-NZE is the first of ten 787-9s on order for Air New Zealand. It was delivered on 10-11 July 2014 direct from Seattle to Auckland. It then spent three weeks on the ground at Auckland doing simulated ‘flights’, where actual operations including refuelling, flight crew on board, and Air New Zealand staff volunteering as ‘passengers’ and receiving full meal service. The first flight post-delivery was a non-revenue flight Auckland-Sydney-Auckland on 25 July 2014, followed by a few domestic non-revenue flights. The first revenue service was 9 August 2014, when ZK-NZE replaced the 767-300ER/777-200ER on NZ103 Auckland to Sydney. It then operated daily on the Auckland – Sydney route until 11 September 2014.
Air New Zealand currently only has ZK-NZE in service and it is performing well. It made 74 revenue flights between Auckland and Sydney, and Captain Morgan confirmed that there have been no delays due to the aircraft . There was one delayed departure, but this was due to the refuellers, not the aircraft. The first Auckland-Perth 787 flight was its 75th revenue service.
At a media event at Perth Airport to celebrate the first 787 flight to Perth, Alison Bone, Communications Director Australia-New Zealand at Boeing said that 180 Dreamliners had been delivered to date, and that Air New Zealand had played a role in the development of the 787-9. She also emphasised the Australian-made content in the 787; Boeing Australia build all 787 trailing edge surfaces (ailerons, flaps, elevators, rudders) in Melbourne, worth some $5 billion over the life of the program.
Air New Zealand said that Perth is an important market for Air New Zealand in terms of business and tourist travellers. 170,000 passengers travelled on the Perth-Auckland route in the 12 months ending May 2014, and 15,000 passengers on the seasonal Perth-Christchurch service. Air New Zealand will also be using the 787 to Shanghai and Tokyo by the end of 2014.
The airline initially put the 787 into service on the shorter scheduled route between Auckland and Sydney, to give cabin and flight crews more flights to train on.
Captain Dave Morgan, Chief Pilot at Air New Zealand, said that “The aircraft is delightful to fly. It handles well and feels like a Boeing 777, which makes it easy for conversion between the two types. The cockpit is noticeably quieter and this helps reduce pilot fatigue.”
Morgan joined Air New Zealand in 1985. Before becoming a pilot, he had been a travel agent – he joked “I decided that instead of selling seats in the back of an aircraft, I would fly in the front seat!”
On this first Auckland-Perth flight, Morgan flew across to Perth in business class and found it so quiet that you can actually hear other conversations in the cabin.
Morgan emphasised the Boeing 787’s fuel efficiency and passenger comfort. Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787s use quieter and more fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, reducing the noise footprint on the ground, making it more airport-friendly. The 787 uses 20 per cent less fuel than the Boeing 767s it is replacing in the Air New Zealand fleet. It also uses significantly less fuel than a Boeing 747-400 (which is admittedly a larger aircraft). The 747 consumes around 35% more fuel per passenger than the 787.
For example, on a typical flight between Sydney and Auckland, the 747-400 uses 42 to 46 tonnes of fuel. The 787 uses just 12 tonnes. The cost of a barrel of jet fuel is more than 180 percent higher today than it was ten years ago, when Air New Zealand first placed their 787-9 order.
By coincidence, on the morning of Air New Zealand’s first 787 flight from Auckland to Perth, their last 747-400 flight arrived at Auckland from San Francisco.
Air New Zealand’s 787-9s carry 302 passengers – 18 Business Premier seats, 21 Premium Economy and 263 Economy seats (including 14 rows of Skycouch seats).
- Business Premier – 18 seats are located in the forward section of the aircraft. The seats are made of soft leather and can convert to a lie-flat bed with a memory foam mattress, two full sized pillows and a duvee. The footrest doubles as a seat, and there is a large flip-out table near the footrest.
- Premium Economy – 21 of these seats are located just aft of Business Class. These black leather seats are 19.3 inches wide, can recline 9 inches, include a leg rest and extendable foot support, and have generous legroom (41-inch seat pitch), compared to 31-33 inches in the regular Economy section.
- Skycouch Economy – The economy section includes the Skycouch seats that Air New Zealand developed – these are 14 rows of three seats that can be converted into a flat bed. These seats are 17.2 inches wide, 5-inch recline, have 33-inch seat pitch, and when laid flat are 5 feet 1 inch across. Each seat has an adjustable leg rest.
- Economy – Standard Economy seats are 17.2 inches wide, with 31-33 inch seat pitch and 5-inch recline.
The 787 also has a number of interesting features to enhance the passenger’s comfort, so that they feel better and less tired on arrival at their destination:
- Bigger windows, with electronic window tinting – The stronger composite fuselage of the 787 allows use of larger passenger windows than other jet airliners (47 cm by 27 cm). Rather than the old pull-down window blinds, the 787’s windows have electro-chromatic tinting – this darkens or lightens the tinting at the push of a button
- Smoother ride – Sensors on the 787 are designed to counter the effects of turbulence by causing certain control surfaces to move slightly. This helps maintain a smoother flight, reducing nausea.
- Higher cabin pressure – Most airliners have cabin pressure at an equivalent of around 8,000 feet above sea level, which causes headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and even nausea. This is because the metallic construction of other airliners could suffer fatigue cracking due to the higher stresses involved with a higher cabin pressure, or would have to be built stronger and heavier. The 787’s composite construction enables a cabin pressure equivalent to 6,000 feet altitude, which testing has revealed is similar to sea level in terms of less reported symptoms.
- Higher humidity, purer air – Humidity in metallic airliner cabins is reduced to prevent corrosion, but this leads to eye and throat irritation, dizziness, headaches and post-flight colds. The 787’s composite construction means that the cabin can be more humid and the air is filtered to remove impurities.
- Quieter – The engines are designed to be quieter, and in addition, the rear edge of the engine nacelles is serrated (known as ‘chevrons’) to reduce noise. The cabin has noise attenuation features.
Air New Zealand’s next 787-9, ZK-NZF, was test flown on the following Sunday (14 November 2014) at the Boeing factory in Seattle.
Air New Zealand intends to have three 787-9s in service by the end of 2014 and another three delivered in 2015, with four more following after that.