A Boeing 787 Dreamliner, on May 8, 2021, caught up to its ancestor, a Boeing Model 40, in the skies over Mount Rainier south of Seattle.
The fully restored 1928 vintage Boeing Model 40, owned and flown by Addison Pemberton of Spokane, Wash., is the only flyable Model 40 in the world and the oldest flying Boeing aircraft of any kind. The Model 40 not only is notable as Boeing's first production commercial airplane, but its innovation and efficiency were the deciding factor in Boeing Air Transport (the airline subsidiary of the Boeing Airplane Company) winning the lucrative Oakland-to-Chicago air mail route in 1927. That event set William Boeing on a course that, within just two years, would take him from managing his airplane company in Seattle to presiding over a vast nationwide aviation empire called United Aircraft and Transport Corporation (UATC).
The 787 and Model 40, both the technological leaders of their time, represent 80 years of Commercial Airplanes leadership and clearly illustrate the dramatic progress in airplane design.
During those 80 years, the people of Boeing have introduced innovative technologies that have revolutionized flight and defined the design of all commercial airplanes.
Taking a very short break from the 787 program's intensive flight test program, Boeing Chief Test Pilot Mike Carriker expertly maneuvered the first 787, ZA001, into formation with the Model 40 at 12,000 feet to allow photographer Ryan Pemberton, flying in an A36 Bonanza, to line up for the striking photo.
"It really took a lot of work and planning," Carriker said. "When I came alongside the Model 40 against those big puffy clouds it was unbelievable: Here is this 1928 biplane flying with a 2010 airplane side by side. How amazing the history of The Boeing Company is – it was really exciting."
BOEING MODEL 40
The first Model 40 was built for a 1925 U.S. Post Office competition as a replacement for the converted military de Havillands that had carried the airmail since 1918.
The Model 40 used steel tubing for the nose and curved wood-veneer laminate for the middle of the fuselage. The wings were wood and fabric. The plane was hampered by the antiquated water-cooled Liberty engine, required by the government in order to use up large stocks of surplus war equipment.
The Boeing Model 40A, which first flew May 20, 1927, used an air-cooled Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine that was about 200 pounds (91 kilograms) lighter than the water-cooled engines used to power its competitors. The biplane used welded-steel tubing throughout its fuselage but could still carry a heavier load and was less expensive to operate.
The Model 40A was the first Boeing airplane to carry airline passengers, with room for two people in a tiny cabin, as well as cargo space for mail. Twenty-four of the Model 40A mail planes were ready to fly July 1, 1927, for their first day of airmail service between San Francisco, Calif., and Chicago, Ill. The 25th was delivered to Pratt & Whitney as a flying testbed.
The Model 40B-4, which first flew Oct. 5, 1928, was the major production model of the mail plane series. It used the larger Hornet engine and carried four passengers and 500 pounds (226 kilograms) of mail. Including the first Model 40, 77 Model 40s were built between 1925 and 1932.
On Jan. 29, 2003, Boeing gave a development designation to name to a new super-efficient, midsized airplane — the Boeing 7E7 — and released the first image of the airplane concept. The company said the designation signaled its commitment to develop a new airplane with major breakthroughs in a lot of areas starting with the letter “E,” including “efficiency, economics, environmental performance, exceptional comfort and convenience, and e-enabled systems.”
The Boeing 7E7 was developed with an international industry team as a 200- to 250-seat airplane providing nonstop, point-to-point service at speeds similar to the Boeing 777 and 747. The company expected to formally offer the new airplane to customers in early 2004, with entry into service targeted for 2008. It took longer than expected, but when it arrived, it was the fastest selling wide-body airplane in history.
On Dec. 15, 2009, the 787 Dreamliner made its first flight from Paine Field in Everett, Wash., under the control of Capt. Mike Carriker and Capt. Randy Neville. It took off at 10:27 a.m. Pacific time and concluded its flight with touchdown at 1:33 p.m. Pacific time at Boeing Field in Seattle. Boeing celebrated the delivery of the first 787 Dreamliner to launch customer ANA on Sept. 26, 2011, at the Everett plant. The 787-9 took flight on Sept. 17, 2013, launching a comprehensive flight-test program leading to certification and first delivery to launch customer Air New Zealand in June 2014.
The 787-8 Dreamliner can carry 210 to 250 passengers on routes of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles (14,167 to 15,186 kilometers), while the 787-9 Dreamliner carries 250 to 290 passengers on routes of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles (14,816 to 15,742 kilometers).
At the Paris Air Show on June 18, 2013, Boeing launched the 787-10 Dreamliner, the third member of the 787 family, with commitments for 102 airplanes from five customers. The third and longest 787, the 787-10, achieved firm configuration in April 2014 and was scheduled for delivery in 2018. The new 787-10 was designed to fly up to 7,000 nautical miles (12,964 kilometers) — covering more than 90 percent of the world’s twin-aisle routes — with seating for 300 to 330 passengers, depending on an airline’s configuration choices.
In addition to bringing big-jet ranges to midsized airplanes, the 787 provides airlines with unmatched fuel efficiency, using 20 percent less fuel for comparable missions than other similarly sized airplanes. It can travel at speeds similar to today’s fastest wide bodies (Mach 0.85), and it provides airlines with more cargo revenue capacity.
Passengers enjoy an interior environment with higher humidity and a feeling of space and comfort, with larger windows and an open architecture with streamlined arches.
As much as 50 percent of the primary structure on the 787, including the fuselage and wing, is made of composite materials. General Electric and Rolls-Royce provide engines for the 787.
The 787 program opened its final assembly plant in Everett in May 2007. On July 30, 2008, Boeing acquired the business and operations conducted by Vought Aircraft Industries in North Charleston, S.C. On Oct. 28, 2009, Boeing announced the facility will be the location for a second final assembly site for the 787 Dreamliner, breaking ground less than a month later. In late 2011, the airplane earned records for completing the longest flight for an airplane in its weight class (440,924 to 551,155 pounds, or 200,000 to 250,000 kilograms) with a 10,336-nautical-mile (19,142-kilometer) flight to Dhaka, Bangladesh. This record had previously been held by the Airbus A330 with a 9,126-nautical-mile (16,901-kilometer) flight in 2002. Following refueling in Dhaka, the crew continued eastbound and returned to Seattle 42 hours, 26 minutes after their initial departure, completing the fastest around-the-world trip for the same weight class at 470 knots (541 mph, 871 kph). There was no previous around-the-world speed record for this weight class.
In 2012, the Dreamliner team was honored with a 2012 Aviation Week Laureate Award in Aeronautics/Propulsion; the 2011 Robert J. Collier Trophy; and the 2012 Hermes Awards for Innovation given by the European Institute for Creative Strategies and Innovation.
On Nov. 17, 2013, the airplane received its 1,000th customer order when Etihad Airways announced an order for 30 787-10 Dreamliners. The Dreamliner family had reached this sales milestone faster than any other wide-body airplane in aviation history, and eight years faster than the popular 777.
On Nov. 8, 2014, Boeing donated one of the original 787-8 Dreamliner flight test airplanes to the Museum of Flight in Seattle. The airplane Boeing donated to the museum, known as ZA003, was the third 787-8 produced. The airplane had been part of the 787 flight test and certification program, and it circumnavigated the globe several times in 2011 and 2012 during a “Dream Tour” that introduced the 787 to more than 68,000 visitors in 23 countries.