Sometimes it’s the smallest of changes that can have the greatest of impacts, and that appears to be case with a slight alteration that Boeing plans on making to its 787 Dreamliner next generation plane, resulting in 20 percent less fuel needed per passenger than similarly sized aircraft. Now will that add up to 20% more savings for the passengers? I think not.
Although aerodynamics play a huge role in the development of automobiles — we’ve all seen pictures and videos of cars in a wind tunnel — they exert an even bigger influence when designing something that’s supposed to take to the air. By maintaining laminar flow, or a “smooth flow of air”, you can reduce drag and thus improve fuel economy.
Boeing is working on a “very smooth, continuous surface without paint edges.” By choosing to use gray on certain parts of the plane, there are smoother paint transitions. The result is a reduction in fuel consumption by some 30,000 gallons per year per plane. These new 787 Dreamliners are expected to hit the air at the beginning of 2008.