About ten years ago when everyone was fussing about the potential of the Y2K bug (remember that?) and a bit of general millennial jumpiness was in the air, a series of books that made the New York Times bestseller list, the Left Behind series, tapped into this general atmosphere with a story that followed a pilot and a journalist as the events described in the Biblical Apocalypse unfolded. If you want to know any more, you’ll have to read the book(s) (they make good airline reads, but the whole series – about 12 books – would be a bit much to take on in your hand luggage). However, one thing that amused me was what happened with the planes flown by the airline pilot who was one of the main characters. There was one scene where this pilot was doing his certification flight for the “brand new” model of plane, which is later selected for Air Force One, and the pilot becomes the President’s personal pilot… Anyway, when the book first came out, this new plane was a Boeing 757. When the audio version came out and was played on the radio, it was a 777. I don’t know what model appeared in the movie (there was one).
That’s just one small example of how quickly aeroplanes are developing. More and more people are choosing to travel around the world, with more airlines flying to more destinations around the world. This means that the manufacturers are trying to create planes that seat more people – with nicer features for the passengers – and can fly more efficiently, given the costs of fuel for everything.
Let’s just take Boeing, one of the major aircraft manufacturers of commercial aircraft. Most of the planes buzzing in and out of the airports, national and international, in Australia are Boeings (although there will be some Airbus models, too). Most of us would have heard of the 737s and the 747s – often, a 747 is the first sort of plane that comes to mind, while the 737 is the “world’s most popular and reliable jet transport” (according to Boeing’s website). The very first 737 flew in 1965, with Lufthansa being the first airline to fly the type, while the latest 737 (the 737-900ER) has just been launched and the first airline to fly it will be Lion Air of Indonesia.
The 747 first flew in 1966, with Pan Am being the first customer for the type. The latest 747 is the 747-8, and Lufthansa was the first airline to fly it.
The 757 is no longer in production, although over 1000 them were delivered to customers around the world, the last customer being Shanghai Airlines.
The 767 came out in 1978, with the first customer for the first 767 being United. The latest version of the 767 is a variety of tanker, but the most recent 767 incarnation in the passenger carrying category is the 767-400ER, with the launch customer being Continental Airlines.
The 777 (often called the triple-seven) was designed with the environment in mind as well as with the aim of taking lots of people. It’s scooped a lot of awards, including being voted the best aeroplane by Executive Travel magazine two years running.
And now we’ve got the 787 (what are they going to do after they produce the 797 – which hasn’t been done yet, incidentally). The 787 Dreamliner isn’t flying commercial flights yet, but the first customer is Japan’s ANA. A 787 Dreamliner recently flew Down Under, touching down in Auckland and in Sydney as part of a tour to show the aircraft off to the world. Qantas is going to get its first 787 Dreamliner in 2013 – and it looks like it’s going to be worth the wait!