Monday, September 26, 2011

The Reality of Dreams

I remember waking up early one morning in home in Elizabeth, New Jersey.  Everything about the morning was normal.  I was reading up on Twitter, my wife was making some breakfast. 

In Everett, Washington, it was raining.  The masses were going about their normal lives, but the Boeing Plant was buzzing.  After several delays the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was about to take to the skies.

I had my eyes glued to the intoxicating glow of my Mac Book Pro.  ZA001 was cleared for takeoff, and history changed. 

I saw the 787 with my own eyes for the first time in November of 2010 when I went to the Future of Flight and Boeing Factory Tour.  From high above the factory floor I knew this dream would change the aviation industry forever.  I also knew I needed to touch the Dreamliner.

See, I touched it!
At EAA’s Oshkosh Airventure I was awestruck as ZA001 circled over the airfield.  She was quiet, graceful, and beautiful.  Her low pass was effortless, and her landing was perfect. 

I stood in line for four hours to experience fifteen minutes in the 787.  I received two things from that event; a great sunburn, and the joy of touching a plane that so many men and women worked so hard to create. 

I was driving from Austin back to Oklahoma City a few weeks before the Delivery of the first 787 to All Nipon Airways.  My phone vibrated just as I passed the Fort Worth Alliance Airport.  It was a direct message from @BoeingAirplanes.  They wanted me to call.  It took me just a few seconds to exit the interstate and make a phone call.  I was invited to join a few other lucky folks during the Delivering The Dream event to pass the key of the first 787 to ANA.  Yes, yes, and yes.  (oh, and a GREAT BIG THANK YOU!)

On my flight to SEA I reflected on the journey to the delivery.  I thought about all of the people who moaned so much about the delays.  (You can read my thoughts about the delays here: Don’t Hate the Delays.)  I imagined what efforts were taken to explore new materials and change wing designs. 

On Monday, September 26th, I woke up (far too) early.  I showered and donned my favorite Boeing hoodie, and I headed north from my hotel.  Once again, it was raining in Seattle.  I once read a Hawaiian Proverb: Rains gives life.  That day it would give life to a new era of air travel. 

I’ll skip the boring details of waiting around... (which I loved every moment of, it just doesn’t make for good story telling)

The Boeing Employees Lead the Way for the 787
We arrived outside of the 787 bay of the factory to a crowd of Boeing employees and (what I assume were) ANA employees.  No one was deterred by the rainy Seattle day, there were high spirits all around.  The ceremony started with the Grand Entrance of the 787 to be delivered with 500 (my rough guess) Boeing employees clearing its path.  It was an emotional moment for many Boeing workers, as the dream set before them years ago became reality. 

McNerney and Ito look at the 787 during the ceremony.
Shinichiro Ito, the CEO of All Nipon Airways, didn’t give a speech, he told a story of plane and its people who faced many challenges, but joined together, despite a communication barrier, and overcame the mountain in front of them.  His story was filled with sincere thankfulness to have the honor of flying the 787 first, and for the support that Boeing provided, and will continue to provide, ANA. 

James McNerney, the CEO of Boeing, proclaimed a resounding trumpet of victory.  His team fought through the hard delays, and constant ridicule of the media, to get to this moment. 

The entire ceremony was more beautiful than a wedding, more honoring than a military salute, and more outspoken than a moment of silence.  There was so much pride and joy in the faces of the Boeing Employees.  It meant the world to me to be a part of it. 

A Boeing Employee Celebrates!
The rest of the day included a private factory tour, on the factory floor.  I cannot show you any images, but I want you to know that Boeing is a well-oiled machine.  They know how to make airplanes. 

The whole day can be summed up in this: Boeing doesn’t make airplanes, they deliver the machines that dreams are made of. 

I would like to thank Mike and Bernard for hosting the others and me during this amazing day.  Bernard, thank you for creating this opportunity for me.  Mike, thank you for the wonderful gifts from the Boeing Store and for lunch.  I would also like to thank the entire Boeing Company for taking great pride in what you do.  Your dedication helps create the most amazing flying machines in the world.  Also a special thanks should be given to Eric for working hard on those great videos. 

To conclude: If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going. 

But, hey, I’m just some guy who likes to look at airplanes, so what do I know?

The Dreamliner at Oshkosh

The ANA 787 infront of the factory.
And just for good measure: Here's United's First 787 (can I get a ride?)