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Randy Tinseth

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Behind the scenes story on naming the Dreamliner


A lot of you remember the contest Boeing held back in 2003 to name what was then dubbed the 7E7 airplane. Of course, the name “Dreamliner” came out on top and will forever be attached to what is now the 787. What you may not know is just how close the Dreamliner came to being called the Global Cruiser.

When we started the process of naming the new airplane, I sat through numerous “naming sessions” and workshops. I can’t remember exactly how many names we came up with—but it’s safe to say the final short list was substantially different from the original list by the time our legal and trademark teams finished their work.

At the time, many people at Boeing were pulling for the name Global Cruiser. But instead of picking a name ourselves from the final short list, we decided to hold a contest. If that contest had been held exclusively in the United States, Global Cruiser would have won.

Instead, the naming contest for the 7E7 was held online with people from more than 160 countries casting their votes. Here were the four choices:

  • Dreamliner
  • Global Cruiser
  • Stratoclimber
  • eLiner

After almost 500,000 votes were cast on, the Dreamliner won by a margin of only 2500. While the Global Cruiser turned out to be the name preferred by U.S. residents, the Dreamliner was by far the favorite among the rest of the world in this name game.

787 Dreamliner first flight – December 15, 2009.

In addition to choosing a name, the public was also invited to join the World Design Team, a virtual community that provided input to the development of the 787.

Naming the Dreamliner was incredibly important to us. We wanted to bring back the magic when airplanes had names— not just numbers. And now, as Paul Harvey so famously said, you know the rest of the story

One comment on “Behind the scenes story on naming the Dreamliner

  • Captain Johnnie E. “JET” Jones
    March 20, 2018 | 1:30 pm

    As a new United Airlines 787 Dreamliner captain, I am strongly advocating for my airline to name a 787 in honor of DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. Why? Because the 787 Dreamliner is a perfect vessel for uniting people around the world and an airline called UNITED is perfectly suited to carry on Dr. King's name and mission of unity.

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