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Mon, Jul 10, 2006

Boeing Makes Small Change To 787 To Enhance Performance

Starting Planning On Single-Color Engine Nacelles

Boeing is going over the final design of its upcoming 787 Dreamliner with a fine-touch comb... and the manufacturer has announced a way for airlines to save money in operating the new jet, with the only questionable tradeoff being one of aesthetics. In a change Boeing calls "subtle but important", from this point on all Dreamliners will sport single-color engine nacelles.

The manufacturer says the 787 nacelle has a very smooth surface, to preserve laminar air flow over a greater distance than that on a standard design. To achieve the proper laminar flow over the inlet, Boeing says it is necessary to maintain a very smooth, continuous surface without paint edges -- which can occur when paint transitions from one color to another (below), or as paint details (such as airline or engine manufacturer logos) are added.

"Aircraft drag is reduced because laminar flow has much lower skin friction drag than turbulent flow," said Ron Hinderberger, propulsion leader for the 787 program. "If you interrupt the laminar flow by adding paint layers, which are common with airline liveries, you could increase fuel burn by 30,000 gallons per year per airplane."

What that means is... you can have your Dreamliner in however many colors you want... as long as the engine nacelles are monochrome. For 787s sporting Boeing's blue-and-white livery, the nacelles will be gray... the better to match the aluminum intake inlet, Boeing says. 

In the face of rising fuel costs, though, we doubt many airlines will mind the aesthetic tradeoff.

The first Dreamliner is scheduled for delivery in 2008. To date, 28 airlines have logged 403 orders and commitments for the 787 since its introduction in April 2004, making the Dreamliner the most successful commercial airplane launch in history.



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