Ethiopian Airlines will receive its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner this month. The airline was one of the first customers in the world, and the first customer in Africa, for Boeing’s new- generation airliner, which entered revenue service in October last year with All Nippon Airways (ANA) of Japan. Ethiopian has ordered ten of the aircraft. Currently, 859 Dreamliners are on order from 58 customers worldwide, and 15 are in revenue service.
Other African carriers which have ordered the 787 are Arik Air, Kenya Airways and Royal Air Maroc.
The airframe of the 787 is predominantly made from composites, which account for 50% of the aircraft by weight. This makes the aeroplane significantly lighter than previous airliners in the same size category, thereby reducing fuel expenditure and thus costs.
“There’s been a really unprecedented response from customers around the world. Airlines are really looking for the most [fuel] efficient airplanes,” says Boeing Market Analysis director Mike Warner. “The focus is on costs – operating costs. The fuel burn on the ANA 787s is better than we expected. We expected 20%; it’s been better than that.” In addition, he points out that the 787 is a medium-size airliner with long range, which fits well with the requirements of many African airlines.
Dreamliner production is now running at three-and-a-half aircraft a month, but this will ramp up to ten a month by late 2013. At the moment, all the aircraft coming off the assembly line are 787-8 versions, but assembly of the first stretched 787-9 model will start early next year and this new version will enter service in early 2014.
Further, the US aerospace giant is considering developing a third version of the aircraft, which is being referred to as the 787-10. “There’s been a great response from the market to the 787-10, but we haven’t committed to it yet,” states Warner.
Read more: Engineering News