By ROB WAUGH
The first Boeing 787s - delivered to All Nippon Airways - are 20 per cent more fuel-efficient than rivals, but also offer in-flight luxuries such as electrically dimmed windows
Aluminium has been the standard material used in aircraft for more than a century - even the Wright brothers' famous first flight in 1903 used an aircraft made partially from the metal. But the 'aluminium age' could be about to end - with the delivery of the first large-scale commercial aircraft made using 50 per cent 'composite materials' including plastics and carbon fibre.
All Nippon Airways is the first airline to take delivery of the hi-tech new plane - the first large-scale commercial jetliner to be built from composite materials, not aluminium
The much-delayed Boeing Dreamliner 787 has a range of 10,000 miles, is far quieter than ordinary jets, and is constructed using a 'moulding' process that has eliminated 1,500 aluminum sheets and 50,000 fasteners. It's also three years late - and has cost a reported $32billion.
Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 programme, said: 'It took a lot of hard work to get to this day.'
The hi-tech new aircraft seats 250-290 and offers increased comfort - the air inside is less dry than comparable jets, and First Class passengers will enjoy entertainment on 17-inch touchscreens
The aircraft has been much delayed - its maiden flight was delayed for more than two years - and will cost up to $200 million. The delays are reported to have cost maker Boeing more than $32 billion.
It offers hi-tech entertainment with Android touchscreens built into every seat - even in Economy. The 'composite' design - using mixed materials such as titanium and carbon fibre - is believed to have been a spur for rival Airbus to incorporate carbon fibre in future aircraft.
Workers inspect the first production models of the 787 Dreamliner - with fuselage assembled from composite sections rather than huge numbers of aluminium sheets
The blue and white-painted long-range aircraft, which boasts a graceful new design with raked wingtips, will leave for Japan on Tuesday and enter service domestically on Oct 26.
Boeing has taken orders for 821 Dreamliners, which will compete with the future Airbus A350, due in 2013.
All passengers will enjoy hi-tech entertainment courtesy of an iPad-like Android tablet built into the back of every seat
The techniques used to create the 787 Dreamliner have eliminated the need for multiple aluminium sheets and up to 50,000 fasteners
Some of the aircraft's 20 per cent fuel efficiency gains are thanks to extensive wind-tunnel testing at facilities including Britain's Farnborough air base
Analysts have speculated that the huge delays in delivering the hi-tech new jet could mean Boeing will not turn a profit until 2020
A makeshift sign shows a ramp leading to the first 787 has been hastily converted from '777' - an earlier, less efficient Boeing model