Jetstar’s first Boeing 787 took to the air on its maiden flight this weekend as the airline counts down to the delivery of the next-gen jetliner.
Dressed in Jetstar’s silver and orange livery, and badged with its official registration of VH-VKA, the Dreamliner spent some two hours cruising above the clouds – with a quick stopover at Washington State’s Grant Airport, 236km east of Seattle – at the tail end of an overcast Seattle Saturday.
This is the first of 14 Boeing 787s which Jetstar has on order. Two more will roll off Boeing’s 787 final assembly line and wing their way to Australia this year.
Later this month Jetstar’s debutante Dreamliner will go on a 'customer acceptance flight' followed by a final inspection or ‘customer walk’ of the plane.
This will identify any remaining work to be done before Jetstar signs the cheque and flies away with the 787.
Several Jetstar cabin crew will be trained on the Boeing 787 in Seattle, in readiness for the delivery or ‘ferry flight’ back to Australia.
Captain Jeremy Schmidt, Jetstar’s lead pilot for the 787, will probably be sitting behind the stick as the Dreamliner sets out for the long flight from Seattle to Melbourne.
Schmidt has already flown a 787 between Sydney and Melbourne when Boeing brought the Dreamliner to Australia on a promotional ‘Dream Tour’ in mid-2012, and he praises the 787’s many engineering and handling advances as well as the all-new flight deck, which is “our office”.
“It’s cleaner, less cluttered and quieter” Schmidt told Australian Business Traveller during a briefing in Seattle earlier this year.
“The seats have got much better ergonomics, over all it’s a less tiring workplace.”
The 787 includes two 'heads-up displays' which project essential flight information onto see-through screens in front of each pilot.
“The heads-up display is a brilliant innovation" Schmidt says. "The real advantage is that in poor visibility, both take-off and landing, you can get your eyes out of the flight deck and just keep looking out the windows.”
Jetstar: why the Boeing 787 is a 'win-win'
Mark Dal Pra, who leads Jetstar’s 787 program, sees the Boeing 787 as a win for both the airline and its passengers.
“Fuel is Jetstar’s biggest cost, and with the 787 we’ll be reducing fuel burn and increasing fuel efficiency” Dal Pra told Australian Business Traveller.
“We expect a double-digit percentage reduction in operating costs from the Airbus A330s to the Boeing 787.”
“But the 787 gives the combination of lower operating costs and an improved customer experience, and it’s amazing that we’ve been able to get something that does both those things simultaneously.”
After the Boeing 787 touches down in Melbourne will come “a range of ‘entry into service’ activities that includes training pilots, cabin crew and airport staff” Dal Pra explains.
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority will also inspect the Boeing 787, as the first of its type flown by an Australian airline.
“We also need CASA approval of the 787 onto our air operator certificate” Dal Pra says.
“This includes modifying our operating manuals and procedures – we have 28 manuals, all of which need to be approved by CASA.”
By November Jetstar expects to be flying the Boeing 787 on selected domestic routes within Australia, before moving it onto international services in December.
The move will provide a “great window of opportunity for thousands of domestic travellers to experience the 787” says Dal Pra, and the 787’s domestic services will be extensively marketed to the public.
Popular domestic routes from Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to the Gold Coast and Cairns “are currently being considered”, although Jetstar has yet to make a final call on both the domestic and international routes.
And while Jetstar’s first 787s will be based in Melbourne, as the Dreamliner fleet grows other cities will become home to a handful of the jets as they replace Jetstar’s Airbus A330s.
“At the moment we have A330s based in Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, the Gold Coast and Singapore” Dal Pra says.
“The 787 will gradually replace the A330s, starting with our Australian fleets and then Singapore thereafter.”
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.