Monday, June 30, 2008

Dreamliner 4 delay

Scott Hamilton is apparently hearing something of a delay on Dreamliner 4 (LN 4) final assembly. Though it is still scetchy, it may be related to section 44 of the main fuselage that is built by Alenia. Here's Scott's blog entry.

UPDATE

Jon Ostrower is reporting what appears to be structural damage to section 44 and thus has indefinetely delayed final assembly of Dreamliner 4. It seems that a Alenia employee was not following proper procedures when he installed incorrect fastneners improperly. There is no indications that this was a deliberate attempt to damage the aircraft but rather an issue related to perhaps proper training and procedures when assembling these structures.

Boeing has no date as to when LN 4 will be delivered to Everett. Read Jon's article here.

The section has been repaired this weekend and I suspect that the center fuselage for Dreamliner 4 is being kept in Charleston as Boeing and Alenia need to be sure that the structural integrity of the aircraft is not compromised by the mishap. If there are structural issues then there could be a delay in the finishing up the test flight program due to delay in getting Dreamliner 4 in the air. In any case the issue isn't design related but more related to training of the Global Aeronautica employees in Charleston, many of whom are brand new to building aircraft, let alone composite aircraft.

Global Aeronautica will have to review it's training procedures and oversite of new employees building these structures.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dreamliner 4 delayed?

Parts for Dreamliner 4, the fourth test flight 787, have yet to be delivered to the final assembly line in Everett, Washington. Both the forward fuselage (section 41) the main fuselage (section 11/45, 43, 44,46) are still in their respective partner sites in Wichita and Charleston.

There is one LCF in Everett right now one in Charleston and the third one is flying (as of 10:30 PM EDT) to Grottaglie, Italy.

Boeing has said that LN 4 would start final assembly by June 30th. Even though there is still 2 days to do that, it is highly unlikely that this will be met due to the lack of movement of these two critical sections.

The reason for this apparent delay is unknown. It could be issues with the main fuselage section in Charleston. It is doubtful that there are issues with section 41 as that is complete though it is possible that perhaps there are issues after completing assembly of this section.

Another reason might be due to work still on going on LN 3. After LN 2 moved to position 3 about a week ago, LN 3 still stayed in position 1. There might be issues with that airplane. I'm trying to get more information.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Alafco Sells 787-9 To Saudi Arabian Airlines

Now we know where Saudi Arabian Airliens is getting their 787-9s from. In addition to buying 8 of them outright they're leasing four more from ALAFCO. Click here to read the story.

Monday, June 23, 2008

787 power on interactive video

Boeing released a series of interactive videos and information related to power on of the 787. See it here.

Also see it below:

video

video


video

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Boeing moves 787 fatigue

ZY998 being moved to building 40-24.
Image Courtesy of Boeing
Yesterday Boeing moved the fatigues aircraft from building 40-26 to building 40-24 where it will stay for about a month finishing up some assembly tasks. Today LN 2 will move to position 3 while LN 3 will remain in position 1 until probably late this week.
As Jon Ostrower reported earlier, the third Dreamlifter, newly modified in Taiwan, will fly to the US in the next few days and immediately will be pressed into service to deliver the center fuselage for LN 4 (the fourth flying 787) late this week. The forward fuselage is also due to be flown into Everett soon and once those two sections have arrived then final assembly will immediately begin. LN 3 will probably move to position 2 late this week to make room for LN 4. The fatigues airframe is expected to move from 40-24 to the fatigue test area in about a month and at the same time LN 1 will move from 40-26 to 40-24 to finish up assembly tasks and prepare it for the move to the flight line. In doing so on or around July 21st, Boeing will make room for LN 5, the 5th test flight aircraft and the first to be fitted with the GEnx engines.
Here's is Boeing's press release here.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Flightblogger: 787 next steps

Jon Ostrower just posted an update for the 787 program now that powe ron has been completed. Click here to read his report he has a couple of great pictures. Here is a brief synopsis:

ZY998 to move to 40-24 this evening between 7 pm and 8:30 pm local time.

Power on went extremely well, in fact they expected problems that never materialized.

Gauntlet testing is up next - fooling major systems into thinking that the plane is flying and see how they react. This is a major test to see if the 787 is ready for flight.

With 998 moved out of the way LN 2 and LN 3 will each be moved down the line tomorrow. LN 2 to position 3 and LN 3 to position 2. This will allow the start of final assembly on LN 4.

Dreamlifter 3 will arrive in the US next week and will be tasked with delivering the center fuselage for LN 4. This will be done next week. The forward fuselage section for LN 4 will also be delivered next week.

Integration time for the center fuselage will be one third of what it is now by late summer (with the delivery of LN 6 to Everett). It is hoped that by LN 8 that there will be no more traveled work with the center fuselage. Integration of systems and wiring in the center fuselage will now start to drop after the center section for LN 4 is delivered.

First 787 Completes Power On

Image Courtesy of Boeing
Boeing continues to demonstrate that it's gotten the 787 program back on track. Today Boeing issued a press release announcing that the first 787 (ZA001) has completed the full power on process and now all of the 787s systems are powered on.

Now comes the additional tasks of making sure that all the systems are talking to one another as well as finishing the assembly tasks including loading up the final versions of the software and reattaching the engines.

Boeing will not roll out the 787 to the flight line until September 6th and first flight will not occur until very, very late in October.

Boeing accomplished the very important task 10 days early. They had previously said that power on will occur by June 30th and here they were able to accomplish it by June 20th. One has to wonder if the rest of Boeing schedule is going to be conservative? They will probably need any extra margin built in to the schedule to deal with any major issues. If all they encounter are minor ones then it is possible that the 787 schedule can be moved forward.

On a related note, a LCF flew into Everett last night from Wichita, presumably it was carrying section 41 (forward fuselage) for ZA004 though I haven't been able to confirm that. Boeing has said that they plan to start construction on ZA004 by June 30th and it was revealed on this blog that final assembly is due to start around June 21st though Boeing still doesn't have the center fuselage section for this plane yet from Global Aeronautica.

Also ZY998, the static test frame was scheduled to be moved yesterday but there was no sign of movement out of 40-26. It is possible that this move will occur this weekend thus pushing out the start of final assembly on ZA004 by a few days.

Edit: Jon Ostrower just told me that the LCF didn't bring in the forward fuselage for LN 4 and that section is not due to arrive until next week. Instead it had delivered the HTP (horizontal tail plane) for LN 5

Thursday, June 19, 2008

KC-787, pros and cons

Yesterday soon after I fell off my chair when the GAO recommendation came out and the dust had somewhat settled, I got to thinking what can Boeing's possible actions (or reactions) to what looks to be the KC-X rebid. Trolling the forums many people including myself said that it could be the 777 and/or the 767.

Then I really got to thinking, why not the KC-787, a tanker based on the 787? Jon Ostrower told me that a KC-787 would absolutely destroy the KC-30 in a tanker competition (depending on the selection criteria that the Air Force puts out).

So here are the pros and cons of Boeing doing the a 787 tanker.

PROS

Well in a nutshell, take all the advantages in weight and fuel efficiency that the 787 has over the A330 and translate that over to the tanker version. The 787 would be larger but lighter than the A330. Boeing can utilized the advantage of better fuel burn and the lighter structure of the 787. The 787 would have a more advanced and modern cockpit compared to the A330. The 787 would beat the A330 on range, usable cargo carried (fuel and/or cargo), and weight. The KC-787 would certainly demolish the KC-30 on life cycle costs and this metric can certainly make the Air Force stand up and seriously look at the 787 as a tanker.

Secondly, because Boeing would probably have to strengthen the 787 in order to carry the weight of fuel and other cargo required by the Air Force as well as a cargo door, Boeing would essentially have designed the 787F. Wow two birds with one stone though Airbus certainly would have a lot to say about DoD Tanker money going to design a commercial cargo aircraft.

Lastly, the Air Force would not have to modify airfields due to the weight of the 787 vs the A330 which is heavier. This was a bone of contention with Boeing as the Air Force underestimated the cost of modifications in operating the KC-30 from existing airfields.

CONS

Production - Boeing is already suffering from the production problems with the 787 and then the ramp up of production is looking to be long and painful. They would have no capacity at all to build tankers based on the 787. In order to do so would require 1) additional investment by Boeing and its suppliers to support increased production of the 787 (more autoclaves, larger facilities, more LCFs), 2) a second assembly line that is ITAR compliant. Now the Air Force would probably take anywhere from 12 to 24 tankers a year meaning a rate of 1 to 2 airplanes, these airplanes can be constructed on the existing assembly line but that would mean up to 2 less commercial 787s being delivered to customers who would none too pleased about their delivery slots going to the Air Force. A second line would be required and later can be used to support commercial production if needed.

Development - Boeing will need significant investment in terms of time, money, resources and personnel to turn the 787 from a commercial passenger aircraft into a military air refueler. Right now they're still grappling with the fall out from the production and supply issues that hurt them over the past year. They will still need a lot of these same resources in order to finish the 787-8 development as well as to develop the -3, -9 and -10 variants for commercial customers. Now since this product would come from Boeing IDS, it is possible to transfer engineering resources from the KC-767 and to work on the KC-787 along with a few of the 787 program engineers. Boeing had earlier transfered some engineers and other resources at IDS to the 787 to help alleviate the issues due to the travelled work and production problems. They could do this again to help develop the 787 into a tanker platform.

Boeing might need to develop a new refueling boom (though I wonder if they could adopt the KC-767 boom for the KC-787) as well as floor strengthening and perhaps landing gear strengthening.

Lastly, timing - the Air Force needs these tankers 4 years ago. There would be little to no timing to get a KC-787 design, tooling, and production going. My guess is that it would take up to two years to get the design going and then another 2-4 years for development, testing and operational evaluation. This on top of doing the rebid (which I think would take another 2 years). So assuming the rebid takes place and that Boeing wins the rebid with the KC-787, it would be another 6 to 8 years before a KC-787 is in the hands of USAF pilots. The KC-30 won't certainly take as long.

These are some broad brush strokes...no details...those can be filled in by people who would certainly know better and more information but the KC-787 might be an option that Boeing can look at if they can effectively reduced the risks, timing and costs of doing a KC-787.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Breaking: GAO sustains Boeing's protest of the KC-X Tanker award

This is out on Bloomberg but the GAO sustains Boeing's protest on the award of the KC-X (KC-45) tanker contract to EADS/Northrup Grumman. This is not over by a long shot folks!

Here is more information: GAO says review of record led to conclude Air Force made errorsThese errors could have effected the outcome. GAO recommends that the USAF re-open the talks with the competitors. They also recommend that the Air Force reimburse Boeing forthe cost of the protest! GAO says the Air Force improperly boosted the Boeign cost estimate and they didn't asess the relative merits of the proposals and the the Air Force held misleading and unequal talks with Boeing. The Air Force violated the evaluation provisions.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

787 Dates to Watch For

Hi all fellow 787 watchers (if there is such a thing). Well a liitle while after watching Tiger make a run for the US Open title (I'll be watch the playoff tomorrow...should be real exciting), I heard of a few dates concerning the 787 program and a few milestones to watch out for now that power on has started:

6/19 - ZY998 will move from building 40-26 to 40-24 (the 767 line) and at the same time LN 2 will move up one spot in 40-26 to position 3 and LN 3 will move to position 2. Because:

6/20 - Final assembly will start on LN 4. We do know from Jon Ostrower's report that section 41 for this airplane will arrive on 6/19. Presumably the main fuselage section will arrive on or before the 19th as well.

7/20 - ZY998 will move to the fatigue tes tare for the start of the 3 year long fatigue tests. At the same time LN 1 will move out of building 40-26 and into building 40-24. My guess for the move to 40-24 is to finish up small items do more power on testing and pre ground test testing (testing flying surfaces, landing gear retractions, etc) while still making room for LN 5. This may mark the last time this airplane in on the 787 final assembly line. ZA001 being moved out of 40-26 will make room for ZA 005 the first Dreamliner to be fitted with the GEnx engines.

7/21 - ZA005 (LN 5) will start final assembly in position one and LN 2, LN 3 and LN 4 will be moved up one position respectively.

9/6 - ZA001 will be considered "shop complete" and moved out to the flight line for the start of ground tests.

Late October 2008 - First flight of ZA001, the first 787.

These are further milestones to look at in order to judge Boeing's success with the revised program schedule.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Fleetbuzz on 787 Power on

Saj over at Fleetbuzz posted an interesting editorial on the power on of the 787. In it he says that two customers for the 787-9 have worries over the 787-9 schedule and that it may be pushed back by as much as 6 months.

Read it here.

Nosing Ahead

The Seattle Time and Flightblogger visited Spirit Aerosystems yesterday and provided some great information and pictures on the production of the 787 forward fuselage.

Check out their links:

787 Front Office

On Board Dreamliner 4

Seattle Times Article

Thursday, June 12, 2008

787 Production moves ahead

In the last few days Boeing and it's partners have been providing the media with great access to the other partner sites in the US, specifically North Charleston where Vought builds section 47/48 (the rear fuselage) and Global Aeronautica (Boeing-Alenia venture) assembles the main fuselage; and Wichita where Spirit Aerostructures builds section 41 (forward fuselage).

Here Boeing and its partners are eager to show the progress at overcoming the production issues that have hobbled the 787 program..

For example, Jon Ostrower too this picture of the flight deck of Dreamliner 3 during the media day in Everett.

Now compare that to the picture of the flight deck of Dreamliner 4 which Jon has taken today and posted on his blog site. Section 41 for LN 4 is virtually 100% complete according to Jon and will be shipping to Everett on June 19th. This is also the same day that ZY998 the fatigue test frame is pulled out of building 40-26 at Everett and placed into 40-24 (767 line). Jon also said they Spirit is already building the section for LN 22.

This means no traveled work (or very small bits and pieces of traveled work at the most) for section 41. Now what about the other sections. Well it's expected that Global Aeronautica will be shipping 100% complete main fuselage sections starting with LN 8. I think this won't happen until September of this year. Vought, who had been the source of frustration for many at Boeing actually has com along extremely well and is expected to start shipping complete rear fusealge sections with LN 5 (the first GEnx powered 787). That probably won't happen until sometime next month. Reduction of all this traveled work is going to go a long way of validating Boeing 787 construction approach and will set them up to raise production rates. The wings are also arriving in substantially better condition though it not known how much traveled work come with them.

So starting with LN 8, it is possible that almost all if not 100% of traveled work can be eliminated.

When that happens is anyones guess though it is possible that as time goes on and there is more and more confidence in the supply chain Boeing can up the production rate in order to catch up deliveries as much as possible.

Soon after the 19th Boeing will start final assembly of LN 4 after LN 2 and LN 3 are moved down the line. Wants important at this stage is that workers currently working on LN 3 won't move with it but will stay at the first position to work on LN 4. This means that the final assembly line will start doing what it was designed to do.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The 787 feels the power.

The 787 was powered on for the first time today, confirming earlier rumors that Boeing would start power on testing very shortly as well as speculation that Boeing would indeed meet the schedule that they had set in early April.

A source at Boeing told me that there is a temporary perimeter fence around LN 1 with a sign reading "Warning - Power On Test - Authorized Personnel Only - No Entrance - No Exceptions".

There are large flat panel displays set up on the factory floor showing a live video feed of the cockpit control panel and a Boeing employee recording video of the event.

Jon Ostrower is reporting the same thing here.

Of the milestones that Boeing had set for itself to complete by the end of June and that remains to be done is movement of of the fatigue air frame out of 40-26 in order to make room for Dreamliner 4 and the start of final assembly of Dreamliner 4. The fatigue air frame is due to be moved to the 767 line temporarily on June 19th. The rear fuselage for Dreamliner 4 was delivered last week which leaves the forward fuselage and the main fuselage the only remaining large parts to be shipped to Everett. If those remaining items occur then Boeing would hold true to the schedule it had outlined.

Note that this apparently was a partial power on and the entire aircraft is not completely powered on. Boeing hopes to have the aircraft fully powered on by the end of the month. There should be more on this story coming out of Everett soon.

787 getting close to power on.

BREAKING: Another source says that power on will officially start tomorrow - June 12th. I am trying to get more information.

A source in the 787 program told me that there is still some good progress being made on LN 1, the first 787. Power on should still take place at the end of this month.

More significantly, ZY998, the fatigue test airframe is due to move out of the final assembly building (40-26) on June 19th and into the 767 final assembly building (40-24). It'll stay there until July 20th when it will be moved to the fatigue test site north of Boeing assembly plant.

The move on June 19th will allow Boeing to start assembly on Dreamliner #4 (LN 4).

Jon Ostrower has been in Charleston yesterday and got some great pictures and reported on the progress at Vought and Global Aeronautica. Jon also reported that the third LCF (Dreamlifter) has been certified by the FAA and will be in the US to start hauling 787 sections and parts in July.

More news to note: Boeing and Vought closed on the sale of Vought's share of Global Aeronautica to Boeing today. Boeing and Alenia are now 50-50 partners in the joint venture which assembles the main fuselage section for the 787 from the sections supplied by the three Japanese Heavies and Alenia. In being a partner with Alenia, Boeing is essentially bought inside the Global Aeronautica plant where they can have more control and can continue to look over Vought's shoulder in Charleston.

Lastly,
Dominic Gates from the Seattle Times has a great article on a media visit to Charleston which took place yesterday. Read about it here.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

More Progress, Part 2

Jon Ostrower, in his blog, provided more information on power on for Dreamliner 1 as well as the big news that LN 1 has it's complete flight deck including displays, the overhead panel, control yokes but doesn't have it's pilot sets yet.

Additionally, Jon reported that Boeing is targeting mid-June for power on though they are making plans for a late June power on in case they run into issues. If achieved then Boeing will be ahead of it's revised timeline.

Lastly, the Dreamlifter is on its way to Everett (presumably) flying by the way of Anchorage for a refueling stop. One should note that when the Dreamlifter has to stop for fuel in Anchorage (when flying from Nagoya to the US) or in Prestwick, Scotland (when flying from Italy to the US) then it's a good chance that it's carrying parts of the 787 to the US. In today's case, the Dreamlifter is carrying the wings for LN 4 to Everett.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

More progress

We're only 4 days into June but there are signs of continued progress on the 787.

Jon Ostrower, in his blog, reported that Saudi Arabian Airlines has committed to 12 787s in a mixture of leased and purchased aircraft. This is supposed to be a firm contract though Boeing has not said anything as of yet. See Jon's report here.


Hamilton Sundstrand, who is manufacturing the power supply units for the 787 now has delivered "everything Boeing needs to turn the power on." David Hess, the President of Hamilton Sundstrand said "All the hardware and software that Boeing needs to power on is ready and in Seattle right now."

Pat Shanahan promised David Hess a huge meal if Hamilton Sundstrand delivered the power supply units on time. I hope Pat has enough funds to feed these guys!

The power supply units and the brake monitoring system were the only worries left. Now that the power supply is no longer an impediment to power on, it is looking more and more likely that power on can be achieved by the end of this month. I have heard rumors that there is still plenty on work left to be done on Dreamliner 1 and I've heard that Boeing may not even make the June 30th deadline. There is no specifics yet but even Pat Shanahan said that it would be a horse race to get power on by June 30th.

As to the brake monitor issue. That is not needed for power on but will be absolutely necessary before Boeing takes Dreamliner 1 outside to the ramp for the start of ground and taxi tests. No word on the resolution of that issue.

Last sign of progress, one of the 747 Dreamlifters left yesterday for Nagoya, Japan. rumor has it that it is picking up the wings for Dreamliner 4 to be delivered into Everett later this week. Also later this week, ZY998, the 787 fatigue test airframe is due to be pulled out of building 40-26 at Everett and moved to the fatigue test area north of the final assembly plant. With that move, Dreamliner 2 can move up to position 3 and Dreamliner 3 can move up to position 2 to continue final assembly. This will leave the MOAB at position 1 free to accept Dreamliner 4. Currently the horizontal tail plane and the vertical tail plane (fin/rudder) are the only major parts of Dreamliner 4 in at Everett. It looks like Boeing will meet it's deadline in getting ZY998 out and starting work on Dreamliner 4 prior to June 30th.