BA PEOPLE • July 2016
Boeing has been constructing aircraft since July 15, 1916, with a founding philosophy to ‘build something better’. As the American manufacturer enters its centenary month, British Airways Captain Rob de Martino gives a pilot’s view on Boeing’s best bits
Boeing isn’t afraid to make big technological leaps. The Dreamliner, for instance, is built from advanced composite materials and uses pioneering aerodynamic designs that squeeze as much as possible out of two engines. In today’s financial climate, it’s important to keep efficiency high.
From the iconic double-decker shape of the Boeing 747 to the sleek appearance of the new 787’s wing, Boeing planes look beautiful. I recently flew back from the US and we were behind and below a new 787-9 Dreamliner. The First Officer and I simply admired the silhouette. I’m sure it’s designed for aerodynamic reasons, but it looks like a swan in flight.
The flying experience is designed around the pilot. Airbus pioneered the fly-by-wire technology found in most modern aircraft and replaced the traditional column with a side-stick control. When Boeing incorporated the technology, the column controls were retained and a feedback system was built in. Pilots can still ‘feel’ the aircraft as they fly it. It isn’t essential, but shows the lengths Boeing will go to in order to retain elements of flying it knows pilots enjoy.
Crew are complimentary about the layout of the galley and their rest areas. They report that the aircraft is designed to be practical, with enough space to work. Boeing’s designers could have reduced the crew’s space to make more room for seats. They clearly know that happy crew means happy customers.
I currently fly an Airbus and it’s a wonderful aircraft. It has its own strengths over Boeing planes, and it really comes down to pilot preference. However, there is a sense of kinship among Boeing pilots, perhaps because we’re used to the design quirks. All the switches go the opposite way from those on other planes, for example.
Boeing has the best-placed cup holder. That sounds ridiculous, but it’s in a very accessible position down beside the pilot’s seat. Reaching for a drink feels natural. However, the Airbus has a great table for eating meals. With no control column it has the room, but the side stick means there’s no place for that lovely cup holder.
An exhibition charting 100 years of Boeing, Above and Beyond is being held at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, London and will run until 29 August, 2016