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George Bush Intercontinental Airport Welcomes Dreamliner

© Houston Airport System
February 2, 2011 goes down as the date of the first landing of a Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft at George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH). The “game-changing” aircraft taxied to Terminal D’s Gate 7 after landing at approximately 7 p.m., following a flight from
La Paz, Bolivia.

“We were looking at stopping in Houston as a great way to get back to Seattle,” said Mike Bryan, chief pilot for the Boeing Company. “And then when we knew that our Continental and United friends were here we said it’s a great opportunity to swing by here and say hello.”

The highly-anticipated aircraft proved to be a huge attraction during its short stay in Houston, drawing dozens of onlookers at both its landing and the “open house” held the following day for members of the media.

Employees for both Continental and United airlines enjoyed an up close view of the aircraft as well, braving freezing temperatures as they waited their turn to tour the aircraft. Once inside, they viewed more computer equipment than passenger amenities, since the Boeing 787 is currently undergoing a battery of tests before it’s launched into service.

“We started in California where we did some fuel efficiency testing out over the Pacific Ocean,” Bryan said. “We then went to Albuquerque for testing about a mile up in the air and then we went to La Paz for high-altitude testing.”

Houstonians are watching the testing progress with especially keen interest since the city is set to play a key role in the commercial launch of the aircraft. Continental Airlines became the first airline to announce scheduled service utilizing the Boeing 787 with a planned route between Houston and Auckland, New Zealand. Once the service begins, it will make Houston the only interior hub in North America to have non-stop service to either New Zealand or Australia.

“Well the aircraft opens up tremendous opportunities,” says United Airlines’ Gerry Laderman. We were the first airline to announce the first expected route for the 787 and we’re going to continue to look at other opportunities for the aircraft and use it to its maximum value.”

At approximately 7,400 statute miles, the new route will be the longest from Continental’s Houston hub. Continental plans to operate the route on a daily basis, with five-times-weekly service during certain unspecified periods in the first year of operation. The new service is expected to launch sometime in 2012.

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