AKCD 2013 Introduction Boeing 787 at KLM

One of the major topics of this years AKCD is the introduction of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner at KLM. First up was the Boeing team to give an update about the 787 program.


Boeing’s focus currently lies on narrow-bodies and small- and medium sized wide-bodies because their market share has more potential. Which means 737, 787 and 777 aircrafts. Aircrafts below 130 and above 400 passengers entail a small market compared to the aircraft-types between those numbers. Brian Moran whimsically said to the Fokker F120NG people that the regional jet market is still a big market and interesting, but what he meant was that, compared to the Boeing markets, it is actually rather small.


He continued focusing on the wide-bodies in general and the 787 in particular. Contemporary aviation deals with a couple of big challenges. Among them are: better flying experiences for passengers and volatile costs. The 787 improves several experiences for passengers, such as bigger windows and higher air pressure. Read more here. Costs are a difficult issue. Because of the mostly composite fuselage, operating costs are lower than with other airplanes. Brian Moran used the latest IATA figures to stress the importance of a cost-efficient airplane. About 1/3 of revenues go to fuel and 2/3 to financing the fleet and other operational costs. IATA estimates a profit of about 1.5% in 2014. This means that of every 100 people in an airplane, 32 pay for the fuel, 66 finance the aircraft and organization, and the last 1.5 passenger is where the profit is gained. Those are extremely small margins. So all cost reductions and efficiency gains are more than welcome.

The philosophy behind the 787 flight training program is to even out airplane commonality with the 777 and other Boeing models. A 777 pilot can complete 787 flight differences training in five days with no full-flight simulator. That means one type-rating for both planes and much lower training costs. Cabin crew can do a differences training in as few as 2 days.


The 787 is designed to be operationally comparable to the existing Boeing fleet, with the highest commonality with the 777 (see figure below). For instance, even though it may look different, the 787 flight deck operates just like the flight deck on a 777. As a result, it takes as few as five days of training for 777 pilots to qualify as 787 pilots. The pilot pool for operators of 777/787 mixed fleets is the same, and 787 pilots will spend less time training and more time flying.

The commonality extends to other Boeing airplanes as well. For example, Boeing is developing other short courses, such as a course to transfer from 767 to 787, which could be as short as eight days. As a comparison, it would take more than 21 days to train these pilots to fly a non-Boeing airplane.

Figure 1 ©Boeing
Figure 1

KLM & Introduction 787

Bauke Rypma, Captain 777 and operations manager for 777 at KLM, delivered a keynote about the introduction of the 787 in the KLM fleet. He started asking the most basic question:

Why would an airline like to operate a mixed 777/787 fleet?


Captain Rypma explained KLM has the intention to at least operate daily to destinations. This is what customers expect, and they should be able to rely on a KLM flight regardless of the day they want to leave. KLM serves almost all long-haul destinations daily. The downside is that not every flight is as profitable as another. As Boeing stressed: an airplane has to be full in order to be profitable due to high costs. Less busy days ask for a smaller plane. Basic logic, so why doesn’t KLM do that?


Another question to the audience: Why does KLM choose to operate large planes on quiet days?
It is less expensive than changing planes. The crew who flew the outgoing flight cannot pilot the inbound flight if it is another airplane-type. So this would require several crews. Also, not all
airports can handle all airplane types, so more ground crews are needed as well. To always be able to use the same wide-body to the same destination and not to have a spare airplane standing by at Schiphol, KLM has a solution. On the east coast of North America there are a couple of destinations that can handle all KLM wide-bodies. For example JFK, Washington, and Toronto. If an airplane headed for, let’s say, Johannesburg, experiences technical difficulties, another 777 originally due to an east coast destination is pulled from that route and scheduled to Johannesburg. Any available wide-body will fly to the east coast instead of the hampered 777.


KLM chose to buy the 787-9 to be able to be more flexible. As Boeing explained, a training of only 5 days enables a 777 pilot to fly a 787 as well. KLM can use a mixed 777/787 fleet on destinations with changing demand throughout the week. On Mondays a 777-300ER, Tuesdays and Wednesdays a 787-9, Thursdays a 777-200ER, Fridays a 777-300ER, Saturdays a 787-9 and on Sundays again a 777-300ER. This gives KLM enormous flexibility which in turn gives KLM cost-reductions.

KLM has experience with pilot flying on a mixed fleet. 737 Pilots also have to adapt to different models. A number of elements in the cockpit differs from model to model. When the latest model was introduced, pilots started having some trouble. The number of differences was too big. KLM is aware of this number and realizes it has to be smaller on the 777/787 mixed fleet. Bauke Rypma gave an example: the buttons for talking to the Air Traffic Controller and the tow-truck operator aren’t the same on all 737’s. This has led to some (mostly harmless) confusion.


A KLM team designed a model: a bucket which can be filled to a certain number of differences. When the number exceeds the maximum, the bucket overflows. In order to retain normal operating safety, some differences have to be eliminated. It doesn’t matter which ones, so the more easily adjustable ones are done first.
The team then started comparing every difference on 777’s and 787’s, no matter how small, and then asked Boeing to change some differences. Boeing then calculated what it would cost to change it (some changes have been made for free), and now there is a satisfactory cockpit layout.

KLM is the first customer to operate a mixed 787 / 777 fleet

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