Though it’s destined for longer flights, Canada’s only Boeing 787 Dreamliner flew from Toronto to Calgary on the weekend and parked on the country’s longest civilian runway.
The $200-million plane is the first of 37 that will be added to Air Canada’s fleet over the next five years.
The new planes will allow the airline to redesign its international network.
With a hull built from composite materials rather than sheer metal, it’s about 20% lighter, allowing for longer routes while reducing fuel costs, said Craig Landry, Air Canada’s vice-president of marketing.
Over the first year in the fleet, Dreamliners, which will replace the current Boeing 767-300ER models, will fly from Toronto to Tokyo/Haneda and Tel Aviv and from Vancouver to Tokyo and Shanghai.
It’s expected some flights from Calgary will eventually be on the Dreamliners, Landry said.
Capt. Murray Strom, chief pilot with Air Canada, said the Dreamliners come with some advanced features including a stability augmentation system that makes for a smooth ride and cabin control that makes the elevation feel like it’s only 3.500 feet as opposed to 40,000 feet.
“It’s a software-driven aircraft where most of our information and systems are presented on a screen and we use a mouse to access them,” said Strom.
“And with the heads-up display, the pilot ... when he’s in low visibility operations, instead of looking out the window and looking down at his flight instruments, all the flight instruments are presented on the heads-up display as he looks out the window, that’s probably the biggest safety enhancement.”
Vanden Laforge, 5, and Emerson Laforge, 3, practice their take-offs on the Calgary International Airport's new 4.2-km runway. The Laforge kids were among the thousands of people who checked out the new runway at a celebration on Sunday June 15, 2014. Jenna McMurray/QMI Agency
Roch Lefebvre, service director for Air Canada based in Calgary, said there are some fancy additions in the cabin, which has three classes — business, premium and economy — including customer-controlled window-tinting, windows that are 30% bigger, and the ability to play games with other passengers on the television screens.
The Dreamliner was on Canada’s longest civilian runway at the Calgary International Airport, which was previewed by thousands of people at a festival Sunday before it becomes operational June 28.
Chris Avery, vice-president of network planning, alliances and corporate development with WestJet, was on hand at the event to talk about the runway’s impact on the Calgary-based airline.
“For us, Calgary is our headquarters, it’s our hub, and getting the facilities and the infrastructure for us to continue to grow and expand is great news,” he said.
“It gives us more capacity for more flights, more opportunities for landing at other times when the airport is busy.”
WestJet has plans to grow its fleet, including 65 Boeing 737 Max aircraft to be delivered in stages by 2027.