The Boeing 787 has been in commercial service for nearly a decade now, but where did its name come from and what else could it have been called?
Naming aircraft is usually a simple affair – take the manufacturer’s initials and/or name and add some numbers to the end.
Most of the time this suffices, but on some occasions, airframers add words to the end of this simple equation, mainly under the pressure of the marketing department who I’m sure, just want to give the new creation some name recognition amongst the travelling public.
Ask the average passenger what a Boeing 787 is, and they probably won’t be able to tell you but add the word Dreamliner to the end and suddenly they’ll know.
What’s in a name?
Shortly after dropping its Sonic Cruiser project in 2002, Boeing announced that it would instead move forward with a conventional aircraft programme focused on efficiency. Called the 7E7, the jet was officially launched on April 26, 2004, with an order from All Nippon Airways (ANA) for 50 examples.
The 7E7 would use the technology acquired during initial research and development of the aircraft it was replacing but in a more conventional configuration. The jet was tipped to replace the 767 and represented a shift from the hub-and-spoke model towards the point-to-point theory, which as we now know, would eventually take over the aviation industry.
Boeing’s marketing team at the time, under the direction of Randy Tinseth – who is now the company’s vice president of marketing for the Commercial Airplanes division – spearheaded the effort to name the aircraft in a new and unique way.
Dubbed “Name your Plane”, the initiative took control of choosing a moniker for the new jet out of Boeing’s hands and placed the responsibility with the public. In July 2003, the naming competition was held.
As this was the early 2000s, the voting took place online and was facilitated through a partnership between the airframer and AOL Time Warner. A website – www.newairplane.com – was set up to allow people to vote.
There were four different choices for people to choose from including Dreamliner, eLiner, Global Cruiser and Stratoclimber.
The favourite amongst the big bosses at the top and within the company was “Global Cruiser” but in the end, with more than 500,000 votes from people in 160 countries, “Dreamliner” flew to victory.
Speaking at the time, Rob Pollack, vice president of Branding for Boeing Commercial Airplanes Marketing said: “The people of the world made a great choice. The name Dreamliner reflects a new airplane that will fulfil the dreams of airlines and passengers with its efficient operations, enhanced cabin environment, and the ability to allow profitable connection to more cities without stopovers.”
Dreamliner won the competition by a margin of only 2,500 votes, so if Boeing had had its way, we may have had to call the 787 the Global Cruiser.