KORD-KDFW (DIVERT KTUL)
Departure Time: 1210L
Departure Gate: L10
Registration: N800AN (American’s first 787)
For the return to KDFW, I opted to sit in economy to get the full experience this airplane had to offer and get a good look at the wings and control devices on them. Even in economy, the 787 showed great improvements for passengers with cloth seats (cloth generally being softer and more forgiving on the behind during the long haul flights for which the 787 was intended), video screens in every seat, a roomy two cabin 3-3-3 configuration, and really generous recline. Large overhead bins provided room for even the most cumbersome carry-on bags (yes, Boeing addressed you Mary Poppins types out there).
As we settled in, the flight pushed back a bit late at 1228L. This time, sitting over the wing, I could clearly hear the start sequence as the boost pumps in the engines groaned to life vibrating the whole fuselage and awakening the beast. First, the port engine fired up, and then the starboard. The hydraulic system kicked in next, sounding not unlike the hydraulic system start-up of an Airbus (minus the barking sound addressed elsewhere in this fine website). The flaps and slats extended to the takeoff position (all carbon fiber), and we took our place in the usual queue of Chicago traffic. At approximately 1245L, we departed via runway 10L. Again, we climbed quickly through the weather and climbed only to flight level 280 due to turbulence reported at the higher altitudes. Right from the start this flight was not to travel as planned.
On this leg, I checked out the video system a bit more. If you’re a movie buff, then the AA 787 system is for you. I stopped counting after forty titles that included everything from old school favorites like Cool Hand Luke and Frank Sinatra flicks to recent releases like Interstellar. The GPS moving map feature performed at a level less than desired, as it could not be adjusted to show individual cities and towns you were passing over, as is available on American’s new Airbus in seat GPS products. The passenger seated next to me, a frequent flyer, spoke of the 787’s lower cabin altitude and how much of a difference it made on long haul flights. While not on American, he had flown the 787 to Europe on American’s competitor United (you can really thank Continental for those 787s at United), and noted he arrived feeling more refreshed and less dried out.
The GPS tool did come in handy when all of a sudden, my new friend discovered the time to destination had gone up by two hours! Sure enough weather in Oklahoma and the DFW area necessitated a diversion to Tulsa. While most passengers dreaded the thought, the avgeek in me became greatly excited at the prospect of yet another takeoff and landing in this fine airplane. Approximately twenty minutes later, the pilots brought ship 8AA down at Tulsa’s 18L.
Once we landed at Tulsa, we taxied to a remote parking spot to refile our flight plan and obtain the needed fuel. Our time on the ground lasted approximately an hour and a half, but again, the 787 proved comfortable for that time. We took the skies again at 1601L from 18L with a flight plan carrying us into the panhandle of TX and then down around the weather. The Captain did an excellent job of keeping us all informed. He had the flight attendants keep their seats for that flight given the potential for turbulence. Here again, the 787 shined. We encountered a bumpy ride, but the design of the 787 with its flexible wings dampened the turbulence considerably. Both plane and crew got us safely back to KDFW at roughly 1700L.
Once again, I went up and talked to the pilots (same crew as the morning), and they were so proud of the 787 and what it could do. This new family member proved its mettle carrying us back through the stormy skies of the heartland. All throughout the day, I could tell how much each employee from the flight attendants to the ground crews (who gathered in droves just to watch it park) really loved this airplane. Moreover, it was great to see American employees really in love with their industry again. Just as a newborn brings great joy to a family, it was plain (pun intended) to see that the 787 had rekindled the love of flying in all of us.