Up to date: 07/17/18 | July 17th, 2018
Although I’m petrified of flying, the expertise additionally thrills me. There you’re, cruising in a steel tube at 37,000 ft whereas watching a film, texting your folks, and — if you happen to’re a journey hacker (and you have to be) — having fun with effective meals and liquor.
I can by no means recover from the truth that planes, which may weigh as much as 485 tons and include, like, as much as 6 million components, may even get into the air — and keep there! Sure, I do know all about aerodynamics (“it’s simply raise!”), however it’s nonetheless so rattling cool!
So after I was invited to my first aviation press occasion on the finish of March, I used to be past excited. I don’t get a variety of media invitations since I don’t report on breaking trade information, however after I was requested if I wished to tour the Boeing facility in Charleston, South Carolina, as a part of Singapore Airways’ 787-10 launch, I instantly stated sure.
Watch a airplane get constructed? Fly a flight simulator? Sure. Sure! YES!
On the Boeing plant, we had been handled to excursions of the Dreamliner meeting course of. We went to the manufacturing services the place, after a protracted and boring press convention on flight specs and gasoline financial savings, we lastly received to go all the way down to the manufacturing facility ground to see the great things. Strolling on the ground and seeing these steel behemoths actually gave me a way of surprise and awe.
Like, “Rattling, that’s a airplane!”
Earlier than this, I had solely a tough thought of how planes are constructed, how engines work, and the sophisticated manufacturing course of that’s required to place all of it collectively. I imply, I’ve watched a number of documentaries on flying. However not like many of the different aviation press there, I couldn’t inform one airplane or engine from one other, talk about avionics or contracts between suppliers, or who designs what seat material.
So I used to be excited to study in regards to the manufacturing facility meeting course of and the way a airplane turns into a airplane.
On the plant, there are three areas to the plant: rear physique, midbody, and ultimate meeting.
The rear physique course of is the place the tail of the airplane is made, and the Charleston plant makes all of the tail sections for all of the 787 Dreamliners (minus the fins). One factor I did know earlier than this journey was that they use carbon fibers, which have a number of benefits over conventional composite steel, together with excessive tensile power, low weight, excessive chemical resistance, high-temperature tolerance, and low thermal growth. Mainly, they’re stronger and lighter than conventional steel. They take a cheesy composite carbon fiber tape and spin it collectively round a shell to make the tail sections, referred to as Part 47, the place the passengers are (Why Part 47? Nobody is aware of. There aren’t truly 47 sections to the airplane. That’s simply what they name it!), and Part 48, which is the very finish of the airplane, the place the fins shall be connected. It’s form of cool to consider. Once you fly a 787, you’re mainly flying a airplane that principally began as a thread. Science, man, science!
All the opposite components of the plan are constructed elsewhere world wide after which flown in on this weird-looking airplane referred to as the Dreamlifter: a part of the entrance of the physique (referred to as the ahead fuselage) is in-built Wichita, Kansas; one other a part of the ahead fuselage is in-built Kawasaki, Japan; the middle fuselage is in-built Alenia, Italy; and the wings are in-built Japan, Oklahoma, and Australia. Right here’s a picture Boeing gave me to present ya an thought of how international Dreamliner manufacturing is:
In the course of the midbody course of, among the electrical methods and ducts are added to the airplane. Additionally they “snap” collectively the fuselage sections which might be flown in from world wide. Mainly, there’s a skinny lip in every of the sections, and a machine use fasteners to place them collectively, which is each thrilling and significantly unnerving to see since you understand simply how superb it’s that it takes so few components and the way few issues are holding this locations collectively. For instance, they’ve simply seven rivets that snap the wing to the airplane (later, throughout ultimate meeting) and maintain all that weight. Nope, they aren’t welded collectively. It’s like an outsized Lego set!”
Watching them put the fuselage collectively this was probably the most attention-grabbing a part of the plant didn’t enable pictures, which was a disgrace. However, since Sam Chui is a badass aviation blogger, they gave him entry to movie it, so watch this video:
From there, it’s on to ultimate meeting the place, over the course of seven stations, all of the sections are lined up and put collectively utilizing a “simply in time” manufacturing facility mannequin. It’s right here the wings and engines get placed on, the interiors are added, the airplane is turned on for the primary time, methods are examined, and the completed plane is pushed out of the hangar for take a look at flights.
This ultimate meeting takes roughly 83 days.
Kinda loopy, huh? You by no means understand simply how a lot goes right into a airplane. It’s fairly spectacular that such a coordinated, international operation can produce such a finely tuned piece of equipment that may basically fly perpetually with correct upkeep.
Then, after a 24 hour flight to Singapore, we had been taken to the place Singapore Airways trains its crew in security and repair and, whereas I discovered it fairly attention-grabbing, the true enjoyable was flying a 737 flight simulator again on the Boeing workplace on the town. These multimillion-dollar machines simulate the complete movement of a flight. After a short demonstration, every journalist was allowed a couple of minutes to “fly.” I giddily sat down within the chair because the pilot let me cruise round for a bit.
I used to be like a child in a sweet retailer.
“Can I financial institution? Can I land? Let’s do a takeoff!” I exclaimed.
“If we have now time, we are able to go once more and I’ll launch the autopilot,” the teacher coolly stated after my thirty seconds was up.
Fortunately, we did have time.
“Prepared?” he requested as I stepped again into the seat.
We began in midair, he launched the controls, and I flew round a simulation of Singapore for a bit.
“Not unhealthy,” he stated. “Able to land?”
“Certain, however can we do a go-around?”
Taking the controls, I aborted my touchdown, turned up, and banked left so we might do yet one more circuit. Simply as I used to be having fun with the bliss of the computer-generated surroundings, I crashed!
I had forgotten to have a look at the display and see my altitude, so whereas I believed I used to be simply going left, I used to be truly banking down — and increase! We died.
I assume I received’t be a pilot anytime quickly. There’s a surprisingly massive variety of controls and numbers it’s worthwhile to take note of on a contemporary plane, particularly while you launch the autopilot!
Afterward, we received to enter one other simulator that allowed pilots to follow takeoffs. It wasn’t a full-motion simulator, however it was designed to get you to take off and really feel the motion of the controls.
This time, I efficiently, took off and nobody died. So that you’re secure with me!
For a very long time, I’ve been petrified of flying — and watching a airplane get constructed and studying about aviation did nothing to assuage that worry. I’m nonetheless unnerved by each little bump (the flight I’m at the moment penning this on has been nothing however bumps!), however I’ve a brand new appreciation for a way complicated and robust planes are, what number of security methods are constructed into them, how onerous it’s to fly one, and simply how rattling superb it’s we dwell within the age of jet journey!
Editor’s Word: I used to be a media visitor of Singapore Airways and Boeing for this occasion. They coated all my bills throughout these press days.
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