Virgin Atlantic Airways Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner Inaugural Flight – Washington, D.C. – London, England
LONDON AND NEW YORK — Virgin Atlantic Airways, in October of 2014, was the first European airline to take delivery of a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. That aircraft, Birthday Girl, is what I am flying in right now en route from London to Washington, D.C. The airline’s second 787-9, Dream Girl, was the airline’s launch vehicle from Washington, D.C. to London Heathrow on January 8, which marked my third flight on the somewhat larger 787-9 variant.
Virgin plans to replace approximately half of its fleet with Dreamliners in the next few years and will use them on several long-haul routes, starting them off with relatively short ones to the East Coast of the United States.
While this was the first Dreamliner experience for most other passengers on the plane, it was old hand for me, having flown on the very first Dreamliner route, Tokyo-Okayama, with Dreamliner launch customer ANA. Still, the Dreamliner, more so than other planes, evokes a special kind of magic.
Boeing almost didn’t build the Dreamliner. It saw the future of air travel as one in which planes would circumnavigate the world at close to the speed of sound and, accordingly, planned an aircraft called the Sonic Cruiser that could attain Mach 0.98. In part thanks to rising fuel costs at the turn of the century, airlines had something else in mind: long-range planes that were light weight and more fuel efficient. Boeing ditched the Sonic Cruiser idea but used one aspect of it, that of a lightweight, composite materials airliner, as the basis for the Dreamliner. Speed was out, efficiency was in.
Virgin launched its first Dreamliner route, London-Boston, in October 2014. The second route links London with Washington and the third will be Newark-London.
I flew down to Dulles earlier in the day from JFK on Delta to participate in the launch event. It was a short and pleasant flight with the cabin attendant including a special welcome to those “continuing on the Delta Virgin 787 Dreamliner launch flight to London.”