Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Flightblogger: Remaining Milestones until First Flight

UPDATE: I got this description from Boeing:

Gauntlet tests in general are focused on integrated system integrity and functionality (hardware and software). The purpose of the factory gauntlet is to test most of the airplanes systems (not the engines or the APU) integrated on the airplane in a simulated flying environment. The intermediate and final gauntlet tests are more thorough and include engines and the APU. The engines will be run at various power settings during gauntlet testing. However, the pre-flight engine testing is a separate activity. We have not assigned specific time periods for these tests.

Jon Ostrower posted an article regarding the remaining series of tests and checkouts to be done before first flight of the 787. Jon cautions that it may not be a complete guide to the remaining work but it does give us an idea of the work yet to be done.

In short the remaining testing will utilize the static test frame (ZY997), Dreamliner 1 (ZA001) and Dreamliner 2 (ZA002).

Please read Jon's post here. I've summarize some of the salient points below.

Two of the required three static load tests have been completed on the static test frame. Te remaining test to be done is the wing load limit test.

Ground Vibration Test is to be performed on ZA002. This airplane will be towed to building 40-24 where this test will be undertaken. So far my estimate is that it will take place in the latter half of April assuming that Dreamliner 1 conducts factory gauntlet inside 40-24 on April 10th and is then towed out to the flightline on April 13th from building 40-24.

Gauntlet Testing - first is factory gauntlet which takes place indoors (presumably in 40-24) where the aircraft is getting power from an external cart and batteries. Most of the systems are powered and tested but not all. The APU and engines are not turned on here. The second is the intermediate gauntlet which takes place out on the flightline. Here the APU and the engines are started for the first time and some of the systems are run on internal power for the first time. The aircraft is fueled up for the first time here. Lastly the final gauntlet is where the aircraft systems are powered for eight days straight and put through simulations to test the software.

Final testing will comprise of three phases. First is the Hot Test where the engines are run up to 100%. There will also be engines runs at different power settings. Second is the slow and medium speed taxi tests. Lastly there will be the high speed taxi test followed by first flight.

I don't have dates yet but the last I heard is that factory gauntlet testing should start on April 10th followed by the move outside on April 13th. We'll see if this schedule keeps.

Friday, March 27, 2009

QANTAS might defer 787 orders

In a news story that was printed in the Sydney Morning Herald, QANTAS may have to defer or cancel part of their 787 order in order to avoid accessing capital markets in order to keep its investment grade credit rating. They have been hit hard by investment losses. Read the article here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Dreamliner 1 News

Some information I just received though I am still trying to confirm it. Dreamliner 1 is scheduled to undergo factory gauntlet testing on April 10th. It is then scheduled to be moved out to the flightline on April 13th. I'm still trying to confirm but this would inidcate that factory gauntlet might take a couple of days. I'm not sure why th test is not scheduled to start for another 2 week but I speculate that it might be to prepare the test equipement for the factory gauntlet.

Lastly, Matt Cawby got pictures of Boeing vans setting up flight test instrumentation around Paine Field. See his pictures here and here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flightblogger: On the road to 787 First Flight

Jon posted a nice update on Dreamliner 1. Read it here. In it he confirms that ZA001 was moved out of the paint shop last Saturday (March 21st) back to building 40-24. He also says that ZA001 can be out on the flight line as early as next week (yesterday I said it could be out there later this week) and factory gauntlet testing (the first of three gauntlet tests) can possibly take place out on the flight line with the airplane hooked up to external power as well as using its battery.

Lastly, it seems that Bloomberg picked up on the post I put up yesterday. Click here.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Mt Redoubt blows its top: possible implications for 787 assembly?

RELATED UPDATE: Boeing told me that they're monitoring the sitation on Mt. Redoubt but don't expect any disruptions to their operations.

UNRELATED UPDATE: Dreamliner 1 might be making an appearance on the Boeing Everett flight line by around Wednesday or Thursday (March 25/26) of this week.

As some of you know, Alaska's Mt. Redoubt, a volcano about a 100 miles away from Anchorage, Alaska, erupted on Sunday. Geophysicists have said that these eruptions can continue for weeks or months.

Now what does that have to do with the assembly of the 787. Plenty it turns out. Boeing dispatches the 747 Dreamlifter or LCF to Nagoya to pick up the center wing box and mid fuselage sections that are then transported to Charleston, SC for integration with other parts flown in from Italy. These parts, when assembled form the 787 main fuselage. The LCFs also fly the wing boxes (or wings) for the 787 from Nagoya to Everett for final assembly.

Because of these eruptions, Mt Redoubt is throwing up plenty of ash and dust into the atmosphere. This ash and dust, when sucked into the engines of commercial aircraft, can flame out the engines which has happened with a 747 flying through a previous eruption many years ago (fortunately the pilots were able to restart engines before the plane would have crashed). This eruption can and will disrupt air traffic flying into and out of Anchorage, AK. When the LCFs are flying with these heavy sections and wings on their way to the US, they have to have a refueling stop in Anchorage. If Anchorage is shut down or if the dust and ash cloud prevents commercial aircraft from operating near Anchorage (which is on major commercial routes), then the LCF flights can be delayed or perhaps stopped from traveling from Japan to the US.

Note that when the LCFs are empty, they can fly a more southerly route and don't need a refueling stop on its way to Japan from the US. We just have to wait and see how this could effect Boeing in the near term as they attempt to increase 787 production.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Boeing announces the start of final assembly on Dreamliner 6

Pictures Courtesy of Boeing

Boeing started the final assembly of Dreamliner 6 according to a press release:

EVERETT, Wash., March 19, 2009 - The sixth and final Boeing [NYSE: BA] 787 Dreamliner designated for flight test is now undergoing final assembly in Everett, Wash. The airplane, designated ZA006, will be powered with General Electric GEnx engines. Progress continues on the fleet. The first flight test airplane, ZA001, is getting its paint touched up this week before finishing factory testing. Power was brought onto the second airplane, ZA002, in late February and build verification tests are progressing well. Production work continues on ZA003, ZA004 and ZA005. In all, assemblies for 31 Dreamliners are currently in production throughout the supply chain. The 787 Dreamliner has orders for 878 airplanes from 57 customers.
The thing to note that power has been turned on on Dremaliner 2 (ZA002) which is an important milestone as that airplane is need to perform ground vibration testing prior to first flight. ZA001 is finishing up painting and then will proceed with factory gauntlet testing in building 40-24 (767 line). After that it should have intermediate gauntlet testing done out on the Everett flight line. I anticipate, barring any issues that may arise with the factory gauntlet, that ZA001 should be on the flight line by mid to late April.

According to Flightblogger in a posting today, parts for Dreamliner 7 will start arriving this week starting with the horizontal stabilizer. I believe Dreamliner 7 wil start final assembly around late April to early May. This will be the first production airplane which is a big deal for this program. Dreamliner 2 will start ground vibrations testing next week.

By the way, Randy Tinseth has a great entry on his blog at Boeing with an additional picture. Read it here.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

787 line moved on Friday (March 13)

Boeing moved the 787 line on Friday March 13th.). Dreamliner 3 was moved out of the line to building 40-22 (747 line) where it will continue assembly thus moving Dreamliner 4 and Dreamliner 5 down one spot and making room for Dreamliner 6 to start final assembly on Monday March 16th in position 1. Dreamliner 2 will remain it is current spot in position 4 in building 40-26

The final section for that airplane, the main center fuselage is being flown tonight to Everett from Global Aeronautica on the Dreamlifter. Track the LCF flight here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

787 Production Progress: Vought bringing back some workers in Charleston, SC

In another sign of production progress, Vought is bringing back some of the laid off workers at the Charleston, SC plant where the rear fuselage is produced. These workers were laid off due to the IAM strike and are now being recalled to help support the increase in production of the rear fuselage sections for the 787.

Read the article here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Near term 787 dates

I just got some new information on some near term 787 goals (near term, meaning over the next week). I got confirmation that the forward fuselage for Dreamliner 6 (ZA006) was delivered into Everett last night on the Dreamlifter. That leaves the main fuselage to be delivered. That part should arrive from Global Aeronautica in Charleston, SC on March 13th (this Friday).

The line move that was supposed to occur on March 8th is now slated to occur on March 14-15th.

After that the parts for Dreamliner 6 will be moved into position 1 on the 787 line around March 16th to start final assembly.

Lastly, AF-KLM has announced that they will decide between the 787 and the A350 by the end of 2009 or early 2010. If Airbus doesn't get GE to sign on to the A350 then the odds are in favor of the 787 getting the nod.

Dreamliner 1 moved to paint shop

Dreamliner 1 entering the Boeing paint shop in Everett on March 10, 2009
Thanks to Tony for permission to use this picture.

After almost two years of disassembly and reassembly, Dreamliner 1 made the short trip to Boeing's paint shop for repainting and its aqueous tank wash. This should be the last few steps prior to the aircraft being turned over to the flight test division to start gauntlet testing leading to first flight (in about 10 days according to Jon Ostrower in his latest blog post). Since Scott Carson pronounced Dreamliner 1 "essentially" factory complete there might be some small assembly tasks remaining as the aircraft goes through ground testing and gauntlet tests.

The gauntlet tests will be driven not be schedule but by accomplishing each milestone before proceeding to the next test. I anticipate that gauntlet testing should take about 2 months. During that time Dreamliner 2 should complete ground vibration testing and the static test airframe should complete the required load testing prior to first flight.

Now that Dreamliner 1 has moved on I anticipate that the 787 line move should occur either today or tomorrow. It was supposed to occur on March 8th but was delayed. in conjuntion with this line move I also anticipate that final assembly on Dreamliner 6 should start late this week or this weekend. The forward fuselage for this aircraft may have been delivered yesterday but I am still trying to get confirmation on this. Saj over at Fleetbuzzeditorial.com also put out a post describing the upcoming 787 milestones. Read his blog post here.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dreamliner 6 forward fuselage

The Dreamliner is flying today from Charleston, SC to Wichita today and then later on to Paine Field in Everett. It's my thought that it might be carrying the forward fuselage for Dreamliner 6 (LN 6) to Everett today.

The only way to confirm this is to have someone let me know if the section is actually unloaded at Everett today.

See the Flightaware track.

Scott Carson: Dreamliner 1 factory complete

Scott Carson was speaking at the JP Morgan Aviation conference reaffirmed Boeing's 787 schedule for first flight as by the end of the 2nd quarter this year and first delivery for the end of the 1st quarter of 2010.

He also said that Dreamliner 1 is essentially factory complete and will be going to the paint shop soon.

He said, "We have cleared all the equipment for first flight."

After painting Dreamliner 1 will go through the three gauntlet tests which also includes engines run ups and taxi tests.

Read a news report here. Also read a post by Flightblogger here.

UPDATE: In somewhat related news, Delta stated in the earnings release that the 787s they have on order are still a firm order and that they are anxious to take delivery of the 787s. Change of mind in Atlanta.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Flightblogger 787 Program Update Part 2

Jon Ostrower posted the 2nd part of his 787 program update. This part deals with the start of assembly of production standard aircraft, the first of which is destined for ANA.

Read Jon's blog post here.

Additionally Innovation Analysis Group has released a podcast detailing the progress of the 787 program. Listen to it here.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Flightblogger 787 Update for March 2009

Jon Ostrower just put out the first of two parts of a 787 Update.

He confirms an upcoming line move for the 787 that was reported here earlier. The main difference is that LN 3 (ZA003) will be moved out of the assembly hall in 40-26 and being sent to the 747 assembly line in building 40-23. ZA 001 (LN 1) should be making its way to the paint hanger within the next one week to 10 days after it undergoes the medium blow pressure test. The fact that Dreamliner 1 will soon be going over to the paint shop strongly suggests that this aircraft is factory complete. I believe that after painting, Dreamliner 1 will have it's fuel tanks undergo the aqueous wash before moving on to gauntlet testing.

Dreamliner 2 will be staying inside 40-26 undergoing completion and goes through power on after the line move. Jon says that Boeing is shifting it's emphasis to getting Dreamliner 1, Dreamliner 2, and Dreamliner 5 out the door and flying.

Jon is also reporting that first flight is still to be determined but feels that it occur by the end of June, 2009 though time margins are shrinking. The required gauntlet testing has been pushed out to early April.

Read Jon's article here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Aviation Week: Delta not to take early 787

According to Aviation Week, Delta Airlines appears to be walking away from the inital 787s that was part of the order made by Northwest Airlines. Looking at annual report for Delta Airlines, the 787 were deleted from the firm order count though the order still is on the books at Boeing.

It is quite possible that Delta would trade them for more 777s and take later 787 slots. This would also help free up early delivery slots for customers affected by the delays in the 787.

Read the Av Week article here.

Monday, March 2, 2009

New 787 Update

I just got word on some upcoming 787 activity. On March 8th there will be a line move with LN 2 finally moving out of building 40-26 and going into building 40-24. LN 1 should be moving around that time to the paint shop as well though I have yet to get a date on that.

The two remaining fuselage sections for LN 6 (ZA006), which is the final test flight aircraft and the second 787 to be powered by the GEnx engines, should arrive around the 8th or the 9th of March. Final assembly should start on March 10th and in the case of this airplane the join should only take a few days in total. This indicates that LN 6 will arrive with significantly reduced traveled work to be done.

Lastly, LN 3 (ZA 003) will get it RR Trent 1000 engines either today (March 2nd) or on Tomorrow (March 3rd).

787-10 and 787 weight issues

Daniel Tsang who writes for Airways Aviation News, posted a great article on the 787-10 but revealed some interesting tid bits on Boeing's weight reduction efforts. Namely ZA020 (Dreamliner 20) will be at the promised weight while the previous 19 airplanes will be less than 4 tons overweight.

Read his article here.

Fleetbuzzeditorial.com 787 update part 2 and part 3

Here's the second part of Saj's 787 Program Review. Click here.

You can read the third and final part of his review here.