From 7E7 to Dreamliner: The birth of a new name

A Boeing 787 accompanied by a biplane in flight
Photo Credit: Boeing

The iconic Boeing 787, better known as the Dreamliner, is a symbol of aviation innovation and passenger comfort.

But before it graced the skies with its graceful curves and fuel-efficient engines, it was known by a less whimsical moniker: the 7E7.

This article delves into the journey of the aircraft’s name, from technical designation to the universally cherished “Dreamliner.”

Introducing the 7E7

Initially, the 7E7 was shrouded in an aura of mystery. The “E” ignited speculation, with suggestions ranging from “efficiency” to “environmentally friendly.”

However, Boeing officially stated it simply represented the number eight, the next in their sequential naming system.

Despite its technical neutrality, the 7E7 lacked the emotional connection essential for capturing public imagination.

Recognizing this, Boeing launched a global “Name the Plane” competition in 2003. The excitement was palpable, with over 500,000 enthusiastic participants submitting diverse suggestions.

A Boeing 787 parked at the factory.
Photo Credit: Boeing

Naming That Plane

Some were practical, reflecting the aircraft’s capabilities: “Global Cruiser” highlighted its extended range, while “Stratoclimber” emphasized its high-altitude performance.

Others were more creative, such as “eLiner,” a subtle nod to the original designation 7E7.

But it was “Dreamliner” that won the majority over. Perhaps the name resonated with the public’s visualization of what air travel means.

It conjured images of smooth journeys, unparalleled comfort, and technological marvels, perfectly capturing the essence of the innovative aircraft.

The term “Dreamliner” spoke to the desire to connect, explore, and experience the world in a different way.

Photo Credit: Dave Sizer from Seattle, WA, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

A Strategic Dream

Choosing “Dreamliner” was not simply a branding exercise; it was a strategic decision. Boeing understood that air travel was no longer just about getting from point A to point B, but about the experience itself.

The name reflected a shift in focus, prioritizing passenger comfort and satisfaction.

It positioned the aircraft as a dream come true, not just for travelers, but also for airlines seeking to attract customers with a more luxurious and sustainable flying experience.

The “Name the Plane” competition was a masterstroke. It generated global interest, engaged the public, and ultimately yielded a name that perfectly encapsulated the aircraft’s aspirations.

The Dreamliner became more than just a plane; it became a symbol of hope, progress, and innovation in the aviation industry.

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A Boeing 787-8 on its maiden flight.
Dave Sizer CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

However, the journey wasn’t smooth sailing. The aircraft faced its share of challenges, including production delays and technical issues.

These hurdles threatened to dim the shine of the “Dreamliner” moniker. But in the face of adversity, the name proved its value.

It served as a constant reminder of the aircraft’s potential and instilled hope that the initial dream would eventually take flight.

Today, the Boeing 787, or Dreamliner, is a success story. It has carved its niche in the aviation market, known for its fuel efficiency, spacious cabin, and modern amenities.

While the aircraft itself has undergone numerous technical advancements, the name “Dreamliner” remains timeless, holding true to its promise of innovation, comfort, and a seamless travel experience.

The naming of the Dreamliner serves as a valuable lesson for brand builders. It underscores the importance of public engagement, emotional connection, and a name that transcends technical specifications.

It reminds us that sometimes, the most powerful names are not found in dictionaries, but born from the collective dreams and aspirations of those who will experience them.

So, the next time you board a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, remember the journey of its name and the dreams it carries aloft.


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By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 5 Min Read
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