First 787 flight to arrive at Sea-Tac a PR nightmare



SEATTLE — A day of celebration for the 787 Dreamliner turned into a public relations disaster Monday for All Nippon Airways of Japan and for Boeing.

The first of the jets to fly into Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in regular passenger service was grounded after arrival due to a maintenance issue, leaving ANA’s Tokyo-bound return flight passengers stranded.

ANA spokeswoman Nao Gunji said Monday that, due to “a faulty part in the cooling system,” the jet’s return to Tokyo would be delayed 24 hours.

Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said the issue was with the valve in one of the cooling-system pumps. Timing of the landing at Narita airport in Tokyo played into the decision to postpone the return flight until today, Gunter said.

Passengers heard the deflating news after waiting in the airport lounge three hours past their 1:15 p.m. scheduled departure time.

ANA had already passed out meal vouchers and, after its announcement, it distributed hotel vouchers.

The milestone passenger flight into Seattle came a few days after the first anniversary of the first 787 Dreamliner delivery to ANA.

The jet that flew in Monday from Tokyo was ANA’s 14th Dreamliner. Boeing delivered the jet a week ago.

It landed smoothly at Sea-Tac shortly after 10 a.m., about 50 minutes early.

Airport fire trucks greeted the jet, spraying a ceremonial arch of water that in the brilliant sunshine created a rainbow as it taxied to the gate.

Unaware of the big glitch just ahead, a welcoming reception was ready inside the airport.

ANA’s invited guests included about 50 Boeing employees, including mechanic Tammy McCord.

“It makes me happy inside to see this baby flying,” said McCord, whose job is to join the aft and mid-fuselage sections. “It’s an outstanding bird.”

In a welcoming speech, Larry Loftis, Boeing vice president in charge of the 787 program, reminded attendees that 35 percent of the jet’s airframe was made in Japan, including “the most beautiful set of wings on any airplane flying.”

“It’s great to have this airplane flying in and out of Seattle for the whole community to see and experience,” Loftis said.

ANA has been flying daily between Tokyo and Seattle since July 25, using a bigger 777 airplane until now.

This was the first chance for locals to see how the Dreamliner looks in service.

The airline configured the 787 for international flights with 46 lie-flat, business-class seats and 112 economy seats.

While the plane looked comfortable, certainly in business class, one aspect of the interior disappointed.

Boeing has often touted its redesigned entryway to the Dreamliner, advertising a light-filled atrium effect.

And ANA’s domestic 787 configuration does feature this open entryway with a central bar-style counter beneath a high-domed ceiling.

But as passengers board the international version, they face a large galley storage unit in front of the entry door. This design, fairly typical on airplanes, provides storage for all the meals to be served but spoils Boeing’s hoped-for aesthetics.

Still, the passengers scheduled to leave for Tokyo on Monday afternoon would likely have been glad of any entryway if it had opened on schedule.

ANA rescheduled the flight for 1:15 p.m. today.

A second ANA Dreamliner was to arrive this morning, so if all goes as planned, there should be two 787s taking off then.