Boeing 787 Dreamliner

8-year-old teaches Boeing a lesson

I had a chance to tag along with 8-year old Harry Winsor, his brother Charlie and their parents today on a VIP visit to the Future of Flight Aviation Center and the Boeing Factory Tour in Mukilteo,Wa.

Winsors in the airplane engine

Harry and his family were getting the royal treatment in part to make up for the fact that, back in March, Boeing sent young Harry a terse form letter in response to his letter containing a picture of a jet airplane he’d designed.

The form letter, which Harry’s dad, John, posted on his blog, said the giant aerospace company does not accept unsolicited ideas and so disposed of his “message” and “retained no copies.”  Word got out and the universal response of aviation geeks, bloggers and aerospace engineers who’d once been kids was “Not cool. Not cool at all.”

Luckily for Harry – and for Boeing – just a few weeks before Harry got his “Thanks, but no thanks” letter from Boeing, the corporate communications folks at Boeing got their Twitter accounts. And Todd Blecher, Boeing’s Corporate Communications Director, was paying attention.  As documented on the Airline Reporter blog and elsewhere, Blecher Tweeted a response that said, “….For kids we can do better. We’ll work on it.”

And it certainly appears that they are. Blecher flew to Seattle this week to be on hand while Harry and his family got a VIP tour of the Boeing Factory and the non-profit Future of Flight center next door. And Blecher explained that the company is working on a better letter to send out to enthusiastic kids like Harry who send in letters and pictures.  The first letter they drafted was too dry and formal.  The next version they wrote up read too much like a recruitment letter, “It said, ‘Study science and come work for Boeing,’ ” says Blecher, “So we tried again. My boss took the letter home and had his five kids take a look at it.”

In the meantime, today Harry and Charlie got to see where their favorite airplanes get made.  They got a bagful of cool Boeing airplane swag.  And they got to to see their drawings exhibited alongside a few dozen other imaginative airplane drawings by children and adults from around the world in the Future of Flight’s Harry Winsor Design Your Own Aircraft Show .

And, already a Well-Mannered Traveler, Harry didn’t come empty handed.  He presented Boeing and the Future of Flight with a framed drawing he’d made especially for the occasion.

I’ll post a gallery of some of the airplane artwork tomorrow, but in the meantime, see aerospace reporter Aubrey Cohen’s great photo gallery and article about Harry and Charlie’s day.

Build your own 787 Dreamliner

A few months back I toured Boeing’s Dreamliner Gallery.  That’s the 54,000 square foot shopping center near the company’s Everett, Wa. plant where airlines go to pick out the carpeting, the seats and the interior elements of their new 787 airplanes.

I brought along photographer Jerome Tso to take pictures, and yesterday my story about that visit – with a 17-photo slide-show of Jerome’s photos – posted on USA TODAY, on the first day of the roll-out of their re-designed on-line travel section.

I encourage you to read the full article and click through the slide-show accompanying my Build your own Dreamliner story.   But in the meantime – here are a few photos of the Dreamliner features I’m looking forward to.

First  – the windows:

As you can see in this Dreamliner Gallery display panel – which compares the size of the Dreamliner windows to the size of the windows on a competitor’s plane – the 787 is going to have windows much larger than the windows we’re used to seeing on airplanes.  These shade-less, smart (electrochromic), glass windows will be the largest in the industry – and you’ll be able to dim them with the push of a button.

I’m also looking forward to the Dreamliner bathrooms.Don’t laugh. These little lavs will have both touchless faucets and touchless flushers. The flushers also automatically close the lid before flushing the toilet. And for anyone who’s ever tried to change into fresh clothes in an airplane bathroom, the Dreamliner bathrooms will have this simple but brilliant fold down step – so you can avoid having to put your feet on the sticky floors.

To see the full article, and Jerome Tso’s photos, please see Build your own Dreamliner on

Can you build a better airplane? The Future of Flight wants your design

Here’s a great lemons to lemonade story.

8 year old Harry Winsor really loves to draw airplanes. So his dad, a savvy advertising executive – with a blog – sent one of Harry’s pictures to the folks at Boeing.  But rather than send Harry a thank-you note, the giant company sent Harry a form letter letting him know that – like every other idea or suggestion that comes in over the transom – they were legally required to shred the  drawing; not even look at it – lest young Harry someday accuse the company of stealing his ideas.

That didn’t sit right with his dad, who wrote about the incident on his blog and, – as this Advertising Age article explains, here’s where the lemonade started getting made.  Someone at Boeing with a new Twitter account got wind of the snafu  and:

In no time, the brand reached out and took responsibility for its mistake. It called young Harry and invited him to visit Boeing’s facilities. On its corporate Twitter site, it wrote things such as, “This is on-the-job social-media training for us” and “We’re expert at airplanes but novices in social media. We’re learning as we go.”

Other companies and organizations jumped in as well.  Alaska Airlines sent Harry a model airplane. And now the Future of Flight Aviation Center – which is co-located with the Boeing Tour in Mukilteo, Wa. – has created a design your own aircraft show in Harry’s honor.

Kids – of all ages – are invited to submit their airplane designs to The Harry Winsor Design Your Own Aircraft Show by June 7th, 2010.  Designs will then be on display at the Future of Flight from June 15, 2010  through July 30, 2010.

Everyone who enters will not only have their artwork put on display; they’ll receive a special badge for their efforts.

Here’s what I’m sending in.

It’s a drawing of the 787 Dreamliner I smuggled out of the factory during a tour organized by Alaska Airlines a few months back.

Got something better?  Then read the guidelines and send your drawing in to the Future of Flight’s Harry Winsor Design Your Own Aircraft Show.