It Looks Like the Future. Up Close and Personal With the 787.

Ethiopian 787 1

UPDATE: June 14, 2017

HELP ME OUT HERE. Let’s put aside the Boeing 787’s well-publicized technical attributes (and earlier foibles) for a moment, and focus on the lines of the thing — the way it looks. I can’t decide how I feel.

Mostly, I think, I like it. If nothing else it’s got something that too many jetiners sorely lack: personality. The scourge of jetliner aesthetics nowadays is same-ness. Gone are the days when each aircraft, even those of similar sizes, had a distinct profile, and even the casual planespotter could tell a DC-10 from an L-1011, or 727 from a DC-9, from five miles away. Then you had the outliers, the really unique beauties like the Caravelle or the Concorde, or the Soviet-made Ilyushins and Tupolevs. Today, every plane looks like every other plane. There are exceptions, of course, such as the 747, which is not only distinctive, but beautiful, and the A380, which is equally distinctive for all the wrong reasons. , Mostly, though, modern planes share the same generic blueprint: two boring engines, a nondescript tail, and a nose that could be any other nose. Planes used to look sculpted. Today they look like snap-together kits of interchangeable parts.

So, kudos to the 787 for venturing outside this boring box. And, unlike the A380, it does so in a way that is, for the most part, tasteful and stylish.

We love the steeply canted wings, for example. There’s something almost organic in the way they curve and taper. As the plane takes off, they bend upward, their tips rising nearly to the roofline of the cabin. It’s amazing to watch. The jet looks nearly alive, like some great seabird lifting its wings for flight. The scalloped engine nacelles (it reduces noise) are sexy, as are the twisty-curvy blades of the engine fans.

The beauty of any plane, though, is lost or made in the nose and tail. Here the 787 gets mixed grades…

Based on other people’s comments, the nose seems to be one of those like-it-or-hate-it things. For me it works nicely. The cockpit windscreens are unusually rakish and sleek. This jumps out because we’re so accustomed to the boxy, sharp-cornered windows typically found up front — see the 737 for an example of how an ugly cockpit can handicap a plane’s profile. But in the name of aerodynamic smoothness, this is the way cockpit windows should look. It’s the nose of a bullet train, or a sports car. It evokes the Caravelle, and the Comet, relics of the distant past. Yet, at the same time, it helps the plane appear modern, even futuristic.

Plenty of people don’t like the nose — most I think they’re afraid to — but a bigger problem is the tail. It isn’t an ugly tail, exactly, but it’s awkwardly undersized, and curved at the top in a way that makes the entire plane look, well, fishy. Like a fish. A graceful fish, but not a sexy fish. A salmon, maybe, as opposed to a shark or a barracuda. That’s better than a steroidal beluga (the A380), but it’s distracting in an oddly anthropomorphic way. Also the plane is smaller and stubbier than people expect. There’s something sausage-like about it. The lengthened 787-9 variant has a sleeker and more balanced look than the standard 787-8. Ditto for the upcoming 787-10.

Overall it’s a good-looking plane, if not quite a beautiful one. If nothing else, it’s daringly distinctive, which is more than you can say about most contemporary jets. It looks strong, fast, and new. It looks like the future.



Ethiopian Airlines at Accra, Ghana
Qatar Airways at Copenhagen-Kastrup
KLM at Amsterdam-Schiphol
American Airlines at Chicago-O’Hare
AeroMexico at New York-JFK
Wing picture aboard Japan Airlines, 2012


Ethiopian 787 2


Ethiopian 787 Aft


Ethiopian 787 Engine


Ethiopian 787 Tail


Qatar 787 at CPH






787 wing view


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92 Responses to “It Looks Like the Future. Up Close and Personal With the 787.”
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  1. Ed Davis says:

    All Passenger jet Aircraft look Boringly alike. They Need something unique like the iconic 747 to take to the sky’s again.
    Most aircraft looks mostly like they just slap two wings and a tail on a Tube and call it a jet.

  2. lisa_1 says:

    Well, obviously, this is solely my opinion, but the Dreamliner is the most gorgeous aircraft to ever take to the skies. That said, unfortunately, this aircraft still is incorrectly associated with having problems even nowadays due to the 737 MAX program, where all 737 MAXs worldwide are grounded as of the date of this comment. However, never despair; the reason why I write this comment is because the Dreamliner ought to have another niche to be in, that is, transporting freight solely. Think FedEx, UPS, and/or DHL; the Dreamliner would contain more beauty in these liveries, especially because all three courier companies need to update their aircraft fleet ASAP anyway.

  3. rdogg14 says:

    Well, it seems quite obvious as to why Boeing would opt for their Dreamliner to have the nose shape that it does; for similar reasons, automobiles, regardless of being sports cars or a standard sedan, nowadays don’t look like basically three squares (two small ones and one big one where the big one is center of the adjoining two small ones). Put them both in a wind-test tunnel, and then the advantages are made even more apparent. Cheers!

  4. UncleStu says:

    “steroidal beluga (the A380)”

    That says it all.

  5. Alan Dahl says:

    There is a 787-10 at Boeing Field in Seattle undergoing flight testing and each time I see it I am struck by how much better it looks than the shorter -8 and -9. It’s really quite stunning in person. But then I’m someone who thinks one of the best-looking jetliners of all time was the DC-8-61 so I guess long and thin aircraft look good to my eyes.

  6. Ben says:

    I think both the 787 and its arch rival A350 have a nose that is too short.

  7. Tod says:

    What are your thoughts on the A350? I think that at least from the front it is quite attractive

  8. Simon says:

    I thought the Dreamliner looked fine until the A350 came along. Now the 787 looks stubby and fat compared to its length. It’s too close to the ground too. Nope, in the looks department the sleek A350 definitely takes the cake. That said, I enjoyed wonderful rides on 787s with JAL and ANA. United not so much, but that’s another story,

  9. Planely Obsessed says:

    The 787 is a good looking plane from most angles but I’m not too sure about the nose. I’m not sure if it’s got something to do with how low the plane sits on the ground, but it looks more like there is no nose, as if the designers were at the end of a long day at work and just decided to draw a big, lazy curve from the top of the fuselage to the bottom.

    The most beautiful plane of all time in my opinion is the 727 (along with the 747 of course). The long, angular nose looks great hugging the ground and even better screaming into the sky on climb out. And while most planes these days have a tail that looks as though someone slapped it on as an afterthought, the 727 had a big, swept back fin that hung on tight to that beautifully tapered empennage (and don’t get me started on those wings). Everything about this jet screamed SPEED!

    I have to say though, the 787 is amazing to fly in, even on Qantas’ budget carrier Jetstar on a 10 hour flight from Honolulu to Melbourne. It was the smoothest, quietest flight I’ve ever had.

  10. Jeff Sandys says:

    The original configuration of the 787 had a more interesting nose, with ‘spy vs spy’ cockpit windows and a swoop-ier rudder, but structural and aero efficiency won out.

  11. Nianbo says:

    Patrick, do you think the 787 is prettier than the A340, or vice versa?

  12. John Miller says:

    I have been up close and personal with a 787, and have seen a great many fly into LAX. I think the 787 is a beautiful aircraft.

  13. […] Beauty or a Beast? Up Close and Personal With the 787. – One more thing; back in the days when I first heard about the 787, I imagined it would be bigger. You know, 747 and then 787. Or maybe not bigger than the 747, but …… […]

  14. Rob Young says:

    I personally love the 757’s lines: the way it sits high off the tarmac, the dropped-down nose, the lower-than-normal cockpit windows (sorry that the pilots have to step down). I also liked the L-1011: beautiful, dolphin-like nose, the blending of the #2 engine’s intake into the tail and fuselage.

    Speaking of Lockheed, I think the most beautiful airliner ever was the Super Constellation. I saw one at the Udvar-Hazy center a couple weeks ago. It was very much like the first airplane I flew on – a USAF MATS transport.

  15. Satadru Sen says:

    Shocked to learn that you like the nose on the 787. What nose? It’s as if the forehead slopes directly into the chin. But you’re quite right about the sameness of most new airliners. The success of the two-engine concept is substantially to blame, I think.

    • Guy says:

      the sameness of airliner design could be the result of all trying to achieve the same thing – maximum aerodynamic efficiency.

  16. John says:

    If you really want an UGLY airplane, take a look at the Boeing Dreamlifter. Now that’s UGLY.

  17. nianbo says:

    Hey Patrick, what do you think of the Airbus A350? I think it looks awesome.

  18. Navigator 37 says:

    As is said in the airline flight crews “Fly Boeing and keep going” !

    Airbus or (AirJunk) create the most noise inside the passenger cabin. When the flaps and landing gear are lowerd or retracted, it’s like being inside a machine factory.
    The 737, though not a very comfortable ride for any distance, seats are too close and hard, it’s still the tried and true workhorse, especially the newer models.

    And I don’t understand anyone comparing automobiles to airplanes, especially Toyota vehicles, which have had almost as many defect recalls as GM.
    If you want true reliability and craftmanship and fun to drive in an automobile, try a HYUNDAI, They’ve never had any recalls, plus a 100,000 mile or ten year warranty.
    Yes, they are a Korean company, but Toyota, Honda Mazda, Suzuki, Subaru, etc are Japanese
    Remember Pearl Harbor !

  19. Dele Obileye says:

    The triple 7 six tyre profile is the telltale while the shape of the 747 will identify it to a novice . For the A380, I always wonder whether the designers have any eye for beauty- they need to learn from boeing designers!

  20. pam says:

    The picture of the 787 looks more like a beast. A beluga whale comes to mind looking at the photo angle. Though, I think the A380 is a beautiful plane and some think it is ugly.

  21. Randy Fritz says:

    Wings: fabulous. Nacelles: excellent. Tail: odd, but made odder by the way Ethiopian Airlines paints it.

    Nose: not so much. I like the boxy thing at the front–it is distinctive, and distinctly Boeing. The new windshields don’t look fully-formed, kind of like a puppy that doesn’t have full, adult-dog features yet. But this is strictly a layman’s view (someone who is fascinated by flying and airplanes but is an infrequent flier and NOT a holder of a pilot’s license). Interesting discussion.

  22. Gyula Bogar says:

    While I agree that the best looking plane is the 747, the reason I refuse to fly on it is the 3-seat-in-a-row setup by the window. Being a member of family of 4, I prefer 2 seats abreast. Sitting either 2×2 with the kids, or just the 2 of us adults, I will take a 767 or 777 over the 747 anytime. Even the A380 has 2 abreast in economy upstairs with some airlines (e.g. Air France).
    The 3 abreast setting is just really awkward, unless you happen to fly in a threesome.

  23. Barry Gold says:

    I went to Google images to see more photos of the 787. I think the nose looks nice, an integral part of the overall shape of the plane. Now… some of the paintjobs that Boeing has put on it manage to make it look ugly, but the images where the body is solid white with “787” painted on the sides and Boeing or an airline name in slightly smaller letters shows the line of the nose very nicely.

    I did think the cockpit windows looked a little small, as if the pilot were peering out of a ship’s porthole, but I suspect that’s just because the plane itself is so big by contrast.

    The tail is a whole other thing. Taken by itself, I think it looks very nice. Pretty even, depending of course on how it’s painted. But Patrick is right: it doesn’t match the rest of the plane. As if they had designed the plane, built all the tools and forms for making it, then realized, “Hey, we forgot the a tail, we need one for stability” and just put one on as an afterthought.

  24. Ward says:

    The Dreamliner is just that – dreamy! What a beautiful airliner. You already commented on the nose and awesome wings, so allow me to point out that tail has a smooth “filet” at the base that curves up to the leading edge of the vertical stabilizer (as opposed to many other aircraft which simply have a sharp angle at that point). Also, the taper of the vertical stablizer is different from other aircraft (Such as the Airbus 350). The 787’s is more narrow at the top. Subtle perhaps, but sexy.

    I rode one of these with ANA from Tokyo to Seattle and back in June and I fell in love with it from the inside out. It was my first trip out of Japan in ten years which made the difference between aircraft of then and the 787 all the more striking. It’s a winner. And like Mohammed Ali used to do, the 787 says “I’m so purdy!”

  25. Jim says:

    I think the 777 is sleek and elegant. The 380 is like a moving van.
    I’m curious why ET has the 787 so soon, though they do have a modern fleet relative to the wealth of the country.

  26. Marshall Arbitman says:


    Agree with you on the nacelles, wings and cockpit windows. What leaves me cold, as do most of these long, large twins, is the generic midsection. Not much to do about it for economic and aerodynamic reasons, but it renders what, on a car, is called the beltline or waistline, dull and linear.

    You can’t do much about it, a-la the Connie’s banana fuselage or the 747’s serendipitously sensual hump. I suspect that modern paint-schemes don’t help either. A cheatline down the windows, sweeping up to the tail and down to the nose, or TWA’s old red arrow, would help immensely.

    On a related note, although I also agree with you on the cockpit window-nose treatment, it’s let down somewhat (literally) by the fact that the visual line of the cockpit sits below the waistline established by the passenger windows, lending a somewhat droopy cast to the nose. Does the flightdeck, in fact, step down from the cabin floor a bit?

  27. Ross Aimer says:

    I doubt any aircraft manufacturer, including Boeing can ever design anything more graceful, beautiful and unique as the 747.
    I did get to play with “Sparky” a bit in the simulator. Despite her amazing technology, she felt a little like game play.
    Real pilots got to hand fly 707, 727, and the 747! 🙂

    Captain Ross Aimer
    UAL Ret.

  28. Cameron says:

    To me, the 787’s looks are generic jetliner. Unremarkable. However, they do SOUND differently. My home is 10 miles off Logan’s 4R. Heavy traffic overhead mosst days. One morning a plane flew over with a distinct hush. I glanced up: JAL’s Dreamliner in from Narita.

  29. Bill says:

    757 looks like a Praying-Mantis about to jump into the sky. 777 has the best engine to fuselage ratio. Looks powerful, ready to launch itself into the sky.

  30. Aviator68 says:

    If you love a/c you have to automatically say that all aircraft are beautiful in their own special way. Every part is made for a purposeful use. But to judge one from another is a bit asinine. The worst looking a/c should be the Wright Flyer. What an abomination; no sleek lines, no cool logos, just a bunch of wires between two airfoils. So, make a judgment, but I say all aircraft are beautiful in their own special way. If they can get positive VSI, then….beautiful.

  31. Tom says:

    Was a new hire S/O on Connies, then and now best looking airliner!
    DC8-62 OK
    B-747 (my retirement plane), iconic.
    B-787, I agree with most of your piece except I like the tail.
    Only negative I see is that it’s too low to the ground aesthetically.
    Maybe 2 or 3 feet longer gear?? Of course I was an art major not engineer.

  32. David Maier says:

    The 787 stole my heart when I saw this video of its test regimen. At about 4 seconds just as the plane rotates on takeoff, the wings begin to bear the weight of the plane. Watch the wings tips swoop up significantly with a bit of a twist- almost bird-like. It looks like it’s leaping joyously off of the runway.

    I have played that moment over and over and over just to watch the wings go from generic jet to magic bird; the positive dihedral of the wings in flight is impressive. But that moment of weight transfer is a joy to behold. The plane becomes alive. I never even looked at the tail…

    And look at the moment at 50 seconds in this video: which is an overhead shot of the plane in a turn. I swear that plane loves to fly.

  33. Pablito says:

    To a mere passenger like me, and since you mentioned Caravelle, the nose and tail sure look like the Caravelle to me…..

  34. Old Time Pilot says:

    In a word, the 787-8 or -9, is all-around: Gorgeous. Nothing less.

  35. Chuck says:

    The wing is the thing. It’s like looking at a beautiful girl. It’s hard to notice anything else.

  36. Hal says:


    Most beautiful Airliners:
    (All C’s)

    Most ugly:
    380 (too fat for its length)
    787 (nose,tail)

  37. Richard Bauer says:

    Everyone is correct because it’s aesthetics and just like art appreciation (Picasso–yuck, Rembrandt–wow!).
    Watching cruising airliners overhead it’s sometimes easiest to tell them apart because of proportional distance of engines from fuselage. Proportion counts, as noted by many of you.
    We notice different things.
    Boeing noses through the 737 looked great but not sleek. The DC-8 looked sleeker and with more personality. Yet the smaller 707s were FAST! Impression counts, as noted by many of you.
    So aside from the known fact that some people think a 707 is sleeker than a DC-8, neither had the 880 look of already flying when sitting.
    And the VC-10 (with engines in back) is hard to beat—imagine a 787 fin/rudder with the lines of the VC-10 horizontal surfaces!
    One of the best looking flying devices ever was the C-141 horizontal tail.
    So, lengthen the 787 nose gear a foot to give the ready-to-leap look, put the fin from the early drawings on, maybe a little more curve up to the rear for the cockpit window lines, and something to get the “tail cone” to look like it didn’t come from Toulouse, and that may take care of it.
    Anyone have CAD to experiment with all this?

  38. Dexter says:

    Guys, I don’t care what the plane looks like as long as it has a proven safety record. Cars now are another story! Camrys and corollas are boring! I have a new stingray and that is FUN.

  39. Steven says:

    What! Nobody has mentioned the beautiful and elegant Super VC-10, which has, after 50 years or more of service finally sailed off into the sunset.

    • Patrick says:

      Both the VC-10 and its Soviet counterpart, the IL-62, were great-looking planes — with a slight advantage to the VC-10.

      Old Ask the Pilot trivia question: a band from the 1980s once had a VC-10 on one of its album covers. Who was it???

  40. Ramapriya says:

    I like the 787 but as beautiful aircraft go, the A330 is under-appreciated. It really is lovely, as was the L-1011 and of course the stately 747.

  41. As the aircraft pulled off the runway, the sideview of the nose reminded me of……..the deHaviland Rapide of the 30’s!

  42. Alan says:

    I see what you mean about the too-small tail. It probably is made possible by an active rudder system that ends up reducing drag while maintaining stability. But the bigger mistake is that paint job w which makes the vertical stabilizer look even smaller than it is.

    So a whole article about how a plane looks and not one picture of a full length view?

  43. Speed says:

    Boeing brought its flight test 787 to EAA Oshkosh in 2011 and parked it on the ramp where anyone could walk under it, touch it, study the brakes or have their picture taken next to an engine. Trusting folks those Boeing people.

    Upon its departure, many (most?) people (and these are airplane people) commented on how quiet it was. Quiet is beautiful if you’re an airline or airport operator.

  44. Kathy says:

    I’m not sure how I feel about the 787. In the air, it’s very attractive and distinct. It has that nice little tilt to the nose and the wings look birdlike, which is a bit elegant and also a bit freaky which appeals to my nerdly nature. On the ground: ouch. The effect of the nose is lost, the wings look awkwardly positioned, but worst of all the engines look completely out of proportion for the body. Every shot on the ground all I can see is these huge engines that look like like they are meant for a larger aircraft and been mounted on the 787 for testing. Maybe it’s an illusion, they don’t strike me that way in aerial shots.

  45. David M. says:

    Oh, it’s a handsome beast, alright. I’ll be happier when I can stand on Revere Beach and watch one come in without worrying about it shedding parts or catching fire, though.

  46. Simon says:

    The 787 was designed for long-haul indeed, but several airlines aren’t using it that way. They obviously prefer to use it as some kind of 767 replacement on 5 hour flights. A shame really because the 787 is very nice on long haul.

    I enjoyed taking one of JAL’s brand new 787s to NRT last year and it was an extremely quiet and very comfortable ride. Of course none of this 9-abreast nonsense some carriers are pulling off. And a very friendly cabin crew just made it all the better.

  47. Eirik says:

    …except for the fact that Camry is the most boring car ever.

    • JuliaZ says:

      Boring is GOOD in my world. I have my Camry serviced at the prescribed intervals and it has literally never had a mechanical problem in 223,000+ miles (over 15 years). It is quiet, comfortable, and safe. While I enjoy looking at “prettier” cars, when I get on the road, reliable and safe are two of the most important attributes… and similarly, I can’t SEE the outside of the airplane from the inside, so safety is more important to me than the swoop of the nose or tail.

    • Kathy says:

      That’s utter rubbish. The Corolla is more boring or at least as bad.

  48. JuliaZ says:

    Having a number of friends who’ve worked on the 787 program, including Ron T who is the foreman at the paint department and Mark H who is an electrical foreman on the tail assemblies, I’ve never heard Boeing friends LOVE a plane they’ve worked on like the Dream Liner. I love the way it looks and my long-haul-jaded daughter admitted that her flight on ANA to Narita from Seattle was much more comfortable than any flight she’s taken to Heathrow or Amsterdam, including a couple of 747s.

    For my money, the 747 is the prettiest and most amazing airplane going. I spend way too much time on 737s to be impressed anymore, but they are as solid and reliable as a Camry and there’s a great deal to be said for that, too.

    • Jeff Latten says:

      It all depends on what you’re looking for the car to do for you. If reliable transport is #1 on your list, the Camry (having had two) is a good choice and you’ll never think of it as ‘boring’ when it starts everyday, doesn’t rattle and the A/C runs well. On the other hand, if you want the car to announce your delusional self-importance, you’ll impress no one with a Camry…you need a Lamborghini or maybe a gull-wing Benz at least. Your choice: wheels, or a 4-wheeled penis.

  49. Falco Peregrinus says:

    Seems to me the two main drawbacks have been identified : low overall height above ground make the 787 lack in grandeur, ambition, stature, majesty, call it what you want, and the tail dors not bring such beautifuly sleek curves to a proper end.
    Having just flown CDG – NRB on the 787, and about to fly CDG – SYD on it, it really strikes me that an aircraft this size does not look the “long haul” part, in spite of its actual very long range.

  50. Speed says:

    The following manufacturers make or recently made jet aircraft with rear mounted engines:

    o Embraer
    o Bombardier/Lear
    o Cessna
    o Hawker/Beechcraft
    o Gulfstream
    o Eclipse
    o Dassault

    And coming soon, the Pilatus PC-24.

    The best place for jet engines is inside the fuselage like a fighter plane. Any place else is a compromise.

    • Rod says:

      “The best place for jet engines is inside the fuselage like a fighter plane. Any place else is a compromise.”

      The compromise remains, of course. Airliner designers compromise on the drag occasioned by rear-mounted engines because:

      1) you need room for the max passengers;

      2) passengers aren’t going to like all that noise.

  51. Dan Ullman says:

    The major reason that aircraft are not easily identifiable at a distance is simply because engine placement has become a given, they appear under the wings. Douglas had a weakness for engines on the back of the aircraft in one way or another. This turned out to a bad idea and neither Airbus nor Boeing did it. This makes aircraft much harder to identify.

    That said, when the 737 got the winglets it became a much prettier aircraft. For a while, it was easy to identify the 737 when it was on approach. Not so much anymore.

    • Rod says:

      Why are back-mounted engines a “bad idea”? Everything in aircraft design (and indeed all engineering) involves a trade-off between this advantage and that disadvantage.

      Virtually everything conceivable has been tried and what you say is true: the overall evolutionary winner is engines mounted under the wing, one fin and horizontal stabilizers low rather than high.

      As for winglets (I think “wingtip sails” is a much better name), I disagree that they improve a 737’s appearance, though they may its performance.

      But that’s esthetic sensibility fer ya.

      • Eirik says:

        Those little DooHickeys (winglets) save 54 million gallons of fuel annually, as the Southwest commercial says.

    • James David Walley says:

      “Douglas had a weakness for engines on the back of the aircraft in one way or another. This turned out to a bad idea and neither Airbus nor Boeing did it.”

      Have you ever heard of an aircraft known as the Boeing 727? I think a few of them got made back in the 1960s.

    • Patrick says:

      >> The major reason that aircraft are not easily identifiable at a distance is simply because engine placement has become a given, they appear under the wings. << I disagree with this, somewhat. For example, even at quick glance the DC-10 was easily distinguishable from the L-1011, despite how similar they were in size, capacity and engine layout. Or the 707 from the DC-8. These designs spoke for themselves; the entire airplane told you immediately what it was. You didn't have to go searching for some tell-tale part -- a wingtip, a window, or the shape of an APU exhaust -- to know what you were looking at.

  52. JSW says:

    After seeing the videos of a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner perform acrobatic stunts at Farnborough there is no doubt in my mind. She’s gorgeous either on the ground or in the air.

  53. Irwin says:

    You know what is really impressive piece of industrial design? Those windshield wipers… I don’t know what kind of voodoo is involved for those things to stay on the airplane at speeds over 500mph.

    • Speed says:

      Our host will certainly want to comment on this but in general the wipers are kept in the streamlined position at speed and used only on approach, landing and taxi.

    • Patrick says:

      The wipers are used only during taxi, takeoff or landing, at speeds well under 200 knots. And even then infrequently — only in heavy precipitation, usually.

  54. Jeo says:

    Every plane has to look like every other plane because of design efficiency requirements. There are only so many designs that work aerodynamically and yet also accommodate 300 passengers and their luggage.

    • Patrick says:

      There are good-looking contemporary airplanes, and there are terrible-looking contemporary airplanes. They will always look alike in certain ways, for the reason you mention, but there is plenty of wiggle room for aesthetics.

  55. Speed says:

    This is from memory but I believe that one (or more) of the cockpit windows in most Boeing jets before the 787 had the same part number. Boeing has been using the same window for decades. Looking at pictures of 727s through 777s (except the 747) on shows that the cockpit side windows (the ones that can be opened) are shaped the same and the general configuration of all the windows is the same.

    In any case, the 787 cockpit windows are one of its signature visual features.

  56. Simon says:

    Personally, I think the 788 is too fat, too much like a sausage. It appears the 789 will fix that.

    I agree with the tail issue, Patrick. It appears Boeing has a tail design problem. The 788’s tail is too low (adding to the sausage appearance). The 777 tail is heigh enough, but way too narrow (especially on the -300 series) compared to the length and size of the aircraft. Makes the tail look too light and flimsy.

    The Dreamliner’s wing design is a work of art though.

  57. Stephen R. Stapleton says:

    All told, frankly, if someone gave me one, I’d take it.

  58. Marshall says:

    As airplane faces go, the 787 doesn’t fare well at all against the prettiest girls in school: the coltish 757 and the elegant 747. The 787’s nose is too pinchy, its windscreen not quite wide enough for its broad, bullet-shaped face. The 787 would look waaaay better with the windscreen from a Challenger 300 or even a Q400. Bombardier does windscreens well. So does Embraer (I love the ERJ 145 face and the rest of it). The A350 does a little better on the pinchiness factor, but its main problem is that it looks like a raccoon.

    And, as I’ve commented before, the main problem with the 787 isn’t the windscreen or the tail, it’s the landing gear height, especially the nose gear. It’s not tall enough. It makes the 787 look dumpy, like a Cessna 172 that needs just a little more nitrogen in the strut.

    • Eirik says:

      Thanks, I knew it was something; the nose wheel!
      Or maybe all wheels, I guess. A little higher and it would look like 757, even more sexy (if you can say such about a plane).

  59. Eirik says:

    If planes were ever supposed to look like a bird, the 787 is the closest one so far. Im no bird spotter so I cant figure out which bird Im thinking of. I do like it though.
    My all time favorite is still the 747.

    • Eirik says:

      One more thing; back in the days when I first heard about the 787, I imagined it would be bigger. You know, 747 and then 787. Or maybe not bigger than the 747, but bigger anyway.

      I was lucky (if you`re a plane nerd) to be on one of the very first flights here in the US on the 787. Actually, I planned my trip just to fly the new bird from Houston to New York. I had to get up at 4:30 in the morning to catch the flight. And the connection was not until 8pm that night, so thats how curious and excited I was.

      When I got to the gate, I had to check the monitor to make sure I was at the right place. Up at 4:30 and maybe not fully awake yet. But yes, it was the UA 787 standing outside. It looked no bigger than a 757. But that was all forgotten as soon as I got inside. You know the feeling when you get inside a brand new car. Multiply that with any number you want. Too bad the flight was pretty short.

      Speaking of size. It looks like the industry focus is more about the “normal” size planes instead of the huge A380, whos sales have not been as amazing as they thought it would be. They are actually having cancellations.

      All those futuristic drawings you see in the papers from time to time, made by some geek who think the future of air travel is going to take place on a 1000 passenger plane, does not seem to be what the airlines want. Not only is it impossible (today at least) to park such planes at the gates, they are not very good for economy either.
      The A380 is made for long haul only, while the 787 can do both.

      Actually, I dont think planes will change very much during the next 15-20 years. More fuel efficient Im sure, but the looks and size will be the same. After all, there is only so much you can change on a plane.

  60. Rod says:

    I also have mixed feelings. The nose (and windscreens) put me in mind of the De Havilland Comet.
    As for the 737, that’s fundamentally the same nose as the 707 had, and it looks great to me. At least it’s slopingly angular. (Too bad they’ve shaved off the eyebrows, though.) Whereas the windscreens of the Airbus airliners (all of them) are boxily ugly. PerHAPS the 350 is starting to get away from that a bit.
    And didn’t you gasp in dismay when I called the DC-10 “sexy”? And here you’re calling engine nacelles sexy.
    I agree with you that there’s something a trifle ill-proportioned about the 787 as a whole.

  61. Speed says:

    For many the only close-up view of an airplane comes from the passenger “lounge” in the boarding/gate area. From there only three airplanes (those currently flying in non-trivial numbers) are easily and unambiguously identified: Boeing 747, Airbus A380 and Boeing 787.

    • Eirik says:

      I guess that depends on the “nerd factor”.
      Im not able to tell the difference when they are at cruise altitude, but I can easily identify most commercial planes when they are at final approach, at least.

    • Rick G says:

      I agree – but I can always tell a 737 based on the flattened portion of the engine.

      • Roger Wolff says:

        Some aviation website had a quizz on the 737 and asked what was the first 737 with the flattened motors? The -100, the -200 … etc.
        So not all 737’s have that.

      • Steve C says:

        Why are they flattened like they are?

        • EngineDude1925 says:

          737-300 and later, to accommodate more efficient, larger fan CFM-56 motors within existing 737 ground clearance among other things moved external engine components off the bottom and used a flattened, asymmetric nacelle.