First 787 Dreamliner test plane now an attraction in Japan

The first Boeing 787 Dreamliner test plane, which first flew December 15, 2009, is now the main attraction at an aviation theme park called Flight of Dreams that opened this week in Japan at Chubu Centrair International, an airport built on an artificial island south of Nagoya.

I had a chance to visit the attraction shortly before it opened and learn about this unique project.

Courtesy Flight of Dreams

The four-story complex is built between the airport’s two terminals and welcomes visitors to a Flight Center with high-tech and hands-on aviation experiences, including a look inside the 787’s cockpit and a virtual tour of Boeing’s Everett, WA factory.

Many of Boeing’s Japanese aerospace partners are based in the Nagoya area and produce an estimated 35% of all the parts that go into the 787 aircraft.

That includes the main wing and fuselage sections, which are so big that they must travel from Centrair to Boeing’s U.S. assembly plants in Everett, WA and North Charleston, S.C. in Boeing’s 747-400 Large Cargo Freight Dreamlifters.

Boeing donated the first 787 built to Nagoya’s Centrair International Airport in 2015 to honor the role the airport and the people of the region played – and continue to play – in the Dreamliner’s development and production. And instead of just parking the aircraft on the airport grounds, Centrair decided to build a destination aviation theme-park around the plane.

The second and third floors of the facility, dubbed Seattle Terrace, overlook the 787 and include branches of some of some of Seattle’s iconic shops and restaurants, including Starbucks (of course), Pike Brewing, Fran’s Chocolates, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Pike Brewing, and several others.


As with all theme parks, visitors exit through the souvenir shop, which is itself quite the attraction.

The first Boeing Store outside the United States is here and is stocked with around 500 aviation-related items, including furniture and artwork made from re-purposed airplane parts and many Boeing-branded items that will only be sold in this store.

Learn more about the attraction – and see a slide show of 29 photos in my story about the Flight of Dreams attraction on USA TODAY.

Souvenir Sunday: Japanese earthquake relief

Despite the incredible story about an 80-year old woman and her grandson found alive nine days (!) after the earthquake, the news out of Japan just seems to get worse. Relief efforts are extensive – and expensive – so donate some money if you can.

You can donate directly to the American Red Cross through its website or make a $10 donation by texting REDCROSS to 90999 on a cell phone.

Many airlines are encouraging travelers to donate to the Red Cross by offering a mileage bonus as a reward.

Through April 15, 2011 American Airlines AAdvantage members can earn a one-time reward of 250 AAdvantage bonus miles for a minimum $50 donation, or 500 AAdvantage bonus miles for a donation of $100 or more.

Through April 30th, 2011, United Airlines Mileage Plus members can earn a one-time award of 250 Mileage Plus bonus award miles for donations between $50 and $99, and 500 Mileage Plus bonus award miles for a donation of $100 or more.

Through April 30th, 2011, Continental Airlines OnePass members can earn a one-time award of 250 OnePass bonus miles for donations between $50 and $99, or 500 OnePass bonus miles for a donation of $100.

Alaska Airlines, and several other airlines are also encouraging cash donations to the American Red Cross and other relief agencies through through their websites. Delta Air Lines has pledged $1 million in cash and in-kind support to relief efforts and set up a special website for Red Cross donations.

Many airlines also allow you to to donate air miles you’ve already banked to the Red Cross for use by relief workers and volunteers.

Hotels and other travel-related businesses are also encouraging their loyalty plan members to contribute to relief efforts. 

Hilton Hotels is matching donations of HHonors points with a cash donation of up to $250,000. Contributions will go to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Best Western, Starwood, and Marriott are among the hotel groups encouraging the donation of points and cash as well.

Do what you can.

All eyes on Japan

Like everyone else, I’ve been holding my breath waiting for news – and hoping for bits of good news – about the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan.

I’ve also been watching – over and over – the incredible footage of the tsunami racing over the land. Especially the footage captured from Sendai Airport.

Some flights to and from Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports are resuming, but getting back to ‘normal’ is still a long way off.  Narita’s website has a very brief update about the Influence of the Earthquake on the airport. Haneda’s website is showing some international flights departing and arriving, but no updates on the status of the airport facilities have been posted.

Resources for travelers affected by Japan earthquake

Here are some links and resources that might be useful as you try to figure out travel plans affected by the earthquake in Japan.

US State Department: travel advisory, links for resources, assistance and updates.

Tokyo Narita Airport

Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport)

Google’s Japan Person Finder

Google’s Crisis Response page – good round-up of resources.

Most airlines are canceling flights and offering flight waivers to/from Japan, so check your airline website for updates.


American Airlines

British Airways



Hawaiian Airlines

Japan Airlines


Thai Airways

Singapore Airlines

United Airlines