Boeing’s first flying 787 Dreamliner goes on display Friday as the centerpiece of a new, curiously Seattle-themed retail complex at an airport outside the Japanese city of Nagoya.
The ground floor is dominated by the first model of the Boeing widebody jetliner, the flight test airplane that rolled out in Everett on July 8, 2007, though it didn’t fly until a couple of years later.
The exhibition building, poetically dubbed the “Flight of Dreams,” at Centrair International Airport was literally constructed around the jet.
Various aviation-related virtual reality exhibits, including a 787 flight-deck simulator, are positioned around the airplane. Above this central space, second and third floor galleries form a “Seattle Terrace” with shops and restaurants that include Starbucks, Pike Brewing, Fran’s Chocolates, Beecher’s Handmade Cheese, Ethan Stowell Restaurants and a Boeing store.
Seattle Deputy Mayor Shefali Ranganathan will attend the VIP opening Thursday in Japan (Wednesday evening in Seattle) and opens to the public the following day.
In an interview last year ahead of the start of construction, Tetuya Takahashi, the airport’s senior commercial manager, said he aimed to “create the atmosphere of Seattle, the birthplace of Boeing.”
Boeing is the link between Washington state and this airport about 215 miles southwest of Tokyo.
The wings of the 787 are built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in Nagoya, and a custom-made Boeing Dreamlifter cargo plane takes off from the airport almost daily in mid-afternoon, each time carrying another set of 787 wings bound for Boeing’s assembly plants either in Everett or North Charleston, S.C.
After the Dreamliner’s flight tests were completed, Boeing donated three of the six flight test planes. Seattle’s Museum of Flight got Dreamliner No. 3. The Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz., took No. 2. Centrair got the first, the one Boeing labeled ZA001.
The airport is built on an artificial island in Ise Bay. A long boardwalk-like, open-air skydeck thrusts out from the main terminal toward the runways, allowing uninterrupted views of planes taking off and landing, including the ungainly looking Dreamlifters.
Connected to the mainland by a bridge, the airport serves the Chubu region, the geographic center of Japan. A concentration of industrial activity is clustered around the nearby city of Nagoya, including giant Toyota car plants and the aerospace factories of Kawasaki, Subaru and Mitsubishi.
The region also attracts tourists, especially from China, who visit sites such as the historic city of Gifu and the traditional village of Shirakawa. That’s resulted in an increase in the number of smaller, low-cost carrier airplanes coming in.
Next year the airport will open a second terminal just for those jets, and connected via a pedestrian bridge to the Flight of Dreams exhibit center.
This expansion comes as all of Japan gears up for an influx of visitors to the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. However, airport authorities view the Flight of Dreams as a local attraction even for visitors who aren’t flying anywhere.
In an interview last year, Mazanao Tomozoe, chief executive of the airport, said that once the airport secured the donation of the 787 from Boeing, planning began on how best to show it off.
“Just having a museum is not so exciting, we thought,” said Tomozoe, a former Toyoto executive who spent some years in the U.S. “We wanted a facility exciting enough to attract a lot of people.”
Hence the addition of the shopping and restaurants with the Seattle theme and various aviation artifacts, including a model of the 787 assembly line in Everett and interactive exhibits featuring virtual experiences.
Entrance tickets to the airplane and aviation exhibits on the ground floor cost ¥1,200, about $10.60, for adults. Entrance to the Seattle Terrace is free.
Tomozoe said the complex won’t have to make a profit but need only be self-sustaining. “Our mission is to make this airport attractive,” he said.
As for the Seattle connection, there is one thing missing: While sets of 787 wings fly regularly to Everett from Nagoya, there is as yet no passenger flight connection to Seattle.