Photo of the Week: Flexing for Fuel Efficiency

Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s elegant wing ‘flex’ serves important purpose

By BlueSkyStaff

Published May 27, 2022

Read Time: 2 mins


When British Airways resumes the Pittsburgh-London route Friday, it will do so on its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, the airline’s newest and most fuel-efficient widebody passenger jet.

And when passengers see the Dreamliner flying into PIT, their first thought may be, “Why are its wings bending like that?”

Introduced in 2011, the Dreamliner features the latest in airplane technology, such as its weight-saving carbon composite structure and quiet, fuel-efficient engines.

The most visually striking aspect of the 787’s design is the accentuated flex of its wings. During takeoff, the wingtips on the 787 can lift as much as 12 feet in the air—the height of two household refrigerators stacked on one another.

They flex more than most passenger jets due to their carbon construction, which provide enhanced strength despite reduced weight.

Additionally, the Dreamliner’s wings feature a higher-than-usual aspect ratio, which is the correlation of a wing’s length to its chord, a measure of wing width. This is intended to minimize turbulence, providing a smoother ride for passengers.

The wings also are key in allowing the 787 to achieve up to a 20 percent fuel burn advantage over competing aircraft and boast lower operating costs than traditional aircraft.

You can best see the Dreamliner’s wing flex while it is in the air, where the wings generate the most amount of lift. You can see the phenomenon in this photo from Blue Sky’s own Evan Dougherty of this British Airways Dreamliner at PIT in August 2019 as it approaches the runway.

Our readers continue to pass along shots of unique aircraft, international airports, historical events, gorgeous views and even family vacation photos for this feature. We love them! Keep them coming—you can click here for submission guidelines.

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