Photo: L. Carol Ritchie
Boeing's snazzy new Dreamliner is as beautiful as it is modern. Made of carbon fiber instead of aluminum, the wide-body 787 is lighter than its metal counterparts and thus 20 percent more fuel efficient.
That's nice, but what potential passengers, who toured the jet at Reagan National Airport on Thursday, couldn't get enough of was the dimmable windows.
They have no shades; instead, a button below each window adjusts the glass to five different shades, from bright to dark. And the dark is still translucent, like putting on dark sunglasses. Since the windows are the biggest in the industry, a cool trick like that grabs as much attention as the huge turbines and better pilot visibility in the cockpit.
"The best part is you can still see outside!" said Cathleen Clampitt, part of the Boeing crew, demonstrating the darkest setting.
It's an innovation that's certain to delight not just the child in all of us but to actual small children, and a relief to parents desperate for distractions on long flights.
The Dreamliner is already in service for Japan Airlines, fying non-stop from Boston to Tokyo. No U.S. carriers fly the Dreamliner yet, but United and others have placed orders for the 787.
The high-ceiling cabins are lit with color-controled LEDs. "We can turn it any color you want," said Shannon Timke, another crew member. "We have a sunset mode that goes from orange to red to purple. That's pretty cool too."
The Dreamliner landed at National on Monday on its world-wide "Dream Tour," which continues on to Dallas, St. Louis, Australia and New Zealand.