Captain Alex Passerini knows planes. The Chief Technical Pilot for Qantas Flight Operations has helmed tens of thousands of flights and seen the inside of scores of planes in his 25 years at Qantas - but the new Dreamliner has still managed to surprise.
The innovative windows
“The windows are even better than I first thought. They’re two-thirds larger than most windows on other commercial transport aeroplanes and they’re placed higher so even people in the middle [of the plane] have a view,” explains Captain Passerini. “Being able to see that magic carpet below and all the changing colours and landscapes as you fly along really adds to the enjoyment.” Plus, the Dreamliner’s window shades are controlled electronically via a push-button system. “It creates a really interesting effect inside. Even when they’re at the darkest setting and no light is coming in, you can still see out.”
The impressive wingspan
Engineering buffs, take note. “The most eye-catching feature of the exterior is the wing,” says Captain Passerini. “It’s made of composite fibre and has a lot of flex. The shape is unique, too, and you couldn’t do that with conventional materials.” His advice for appreciating how impressive the wings are? Look at them front-on. We suggest a peer through the terminal windows before you board.
The smart seating
The seats are a standout for Captain Passerini and not just because each comes with a little more room (economy seats on a Dreamliner are 2.54cm wider than an A380). It’s the little touches, he says, that make each seat a much more pleasant place to spend a flight. “There’s been a lot smart things done in the seats, really intelligent designs that make the passenger's life a little bit easier. The footrest [in Premium Economy], the in-flight entertainment, USB chargers, all the little things that add up to a much better experience.”
New crew off-duty areas
Passengers may not get to peek inside the crew-only areas but the flight deck is one of Captain Passerini’s favourite features – partly because it too has huge windows. “It’s a great place to see the world unfold,” he says. The rest of the space is just as impressive: high-definition displays, a reduced noise level and a long-haul sleeping area that’s conducive to a great rest – especially important when the Dreamliners start flying the Perth-to-London route in March 2018. “The flight crew rest area has two big bunks and a seat with in-flight entertainment and it’s in a quiet area so we’re not disrupting any passengers. We don’t hear any noise from the galley areas, either. You get some good-quality rest.”
The swell of emotion
Captain Passerini is most surprised by how excited people are about the Dreamliner’s introduction. “I have been amazed at how much emotion there is around it – I had underestimated that,” he says. “It really caught me how many wellwishers came out to see it. It’s really great to be part of something that is going to revolutionise and improve flying.”