Founded originally in 1962 as Britannia Airways, the airline commenced operations under the name Thomson on 1st November 2008. Since then the airline has come on leaps and bounds, becoming one of the world’s largest Charter Airlines. Thomson Airways is part of the TUI Travel PLC and is the UK’s third largest airline, operating a fleet of some 58 aircraft. Aero Resource’s Jamie Ewan reports from Manchester Airport as the Airline takes its next leap into the future with the delivery of its first Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Whilst Thomson is the first UK airline to operate the 787, other operators are already flying to the UK with Qatar, Air India, United and LOT all having flown into Heathrow – whilst Qatar also recently launched their 787 service to Manchester. As the future home of the Thomson Dreamliner, Manchester was also included in the Boeing World Tour of the 787 in April 2012 when company aircraft N787BX visited.

With Thomson being the first UK airline to operate the Dreamliner, it was something of a crowdpuller at Manchester – with the viewing area filling up prior to the arrival (although the £12 parking fee was somewhat high).Thomson first aircraft, G-TUIA (cn 34422/92) is the first of eight 787s Thomson Airways has on order, with the TUI Travel group also having a further five on order.

Flying as TOM7968, “India Alpha” flew direct from Boeing’s facility at Paine Field in Everett, Washington touching down on Ringway’s Runway 23R at 11:00 on the dot (after a few extended circuits to ensure the precise arrival time was met!) with nothing more than a little squeak and a puff of blue smoke!

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a long-range, mid-size wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes. Its variants can seat between 210 to 290 passengers. Powered by 2 Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, providing around 64,000 lbf of thrust, the aircraft has a range of some 8,200 nuatical miles and a maximum ceiling of 43,000 ft. The 787-8 is the base model of the 787 family, with a length of 186 feet and a wingspan of 197 feet.  It is the only 787 variant, and the third Boeing widebody (after the 747SP and the 777-200LR) with a wingspan wider than the length of the fuselage! Boeing is targeting the 787-8 to replace the 767-200ER and 767-300ER, as well as expand into new non-stop markets where larger planes would not be economically viable. Some two-thirds of 787 orders to date are for the 787-8.

The aircraft was met by an Airport security vehicle, adorned with Thomson flags, who slowly escorted the aircraft past the waiting crowds to her Stand. The crew were obviously as excited as the spectators, waving and stopping the aircraft a number of times on the taxiway for people to get their first glimpses of the world’s most advanced and fuel-efficient airliner to date, and also the world’s first airliner to use composite materials as the primary material in the construction of its airframe.

Upon arriving at her allocated Stand the aircraft was greeted by Todd Nelp , Boeing Commercial Airplanes ‘ Vice President of European Sales, and Ken O’Toole, Chief Commercial Officer for MAG, the owners of Manchester Airport. As well as the guests greeting the aircraft, Senior Thomson and Boeing executives, including Thomson Managing Director Chris Browne and Boeing Commercial Airplanes Vice President of Marketing Randy Tinseth  were all onboard for the delivery flight. The delivery of the 787 to Thomson marked the first 787 delivery since the type was grounded earlier in the year due to problems encountered with the Lithium-Ion batteries used on the aircraft. Thomson was due to begin 787 operations earlier in May, but the grounding meant that the operator’s Boeing 767-304ER fleet had to step in to fill the gap.

Thomson’s  second aircraft – G-TUIB (34423/94) – is due for delivery at 0650 on the morning of 1st June (again to Manchester) with 3 moreto come during the summer of 2013, with the next on June 14th. The airline expect to receive all 8 of their orders by 2015, and are now looking to begin operating long haul flights with the aircraft from July 8th – initially from Manchester to Florida, and from Glasgow to Cancun. Thomson will also operate services from London Gatwick and East Midlands airports as the fleet increases. Later this year, the airline will also introduce direct flights to Phuket in Thailand from the UK.