Monday, March 15, 2010

Three Months In

Boeing Photo

Three months into 787 flight testing Boeing is slowly ramping up the number of airplanes to the test flight fleet with the recent addition of ZA003 to the test flight program yesterday. However, through three months since ZA001 took flight, the program has accumulated just shy of 307 flight hours spread across 101 flights and 4 test airplanes.

Boeing has indicated that the program will need 3,100 flight hours (3,700 ground test hours) for full testing and certification. Additionally, Boeing Commercial Airplane Group chief, James Albaugh, said that by mid year the test flight fleet will be flying about 90 hours per week on average.

Given the 307 hours already flown (not even 10% of the total needed) three months in, Boeing would need to fly another 2,793 hours. Assuming another 8 months for those flight test (taking us to mid November, 2010), then Boeing would need to fly about 350 hours per month on average or over about 88 hours per week across the test flight fleet.

Mind you that right now there are 4 test airplanes in the fleet with some planes flying less hours than others given the flight test assignments for each airplane. For example, ZA003 will log significantly fewer hours in the air due to the cabin testing it will be doing versus ZA001. Thus much of the flight testing would fall on ZA001, ZA002, ZA004 and the unflown ZA005. ZA005 won't be flying until early May and ZA006 won't be flying until early June according to sources. Thus if Boeing plans to deliver by the end of the 4th quarter (they would need time to flight test the production airplanes as well as incorporate any changes that are needed), they would need to get more aggressive with flight testing as they are flying, on average, about 96 hours per month granted that flight testing has ramped over of the months. Boeing has achieved 100 test flights in the 3 months since ZA001's first test flight.

In December, the 787 flight test program logged 18 hours and 57 minutes across 5 flights. That averages about 3 hours and 47 minutes per flight.

In January, the flight test team logged 47 hours and 23 minutes across 13 flights. That is an average of 3 hours and 38 minutes, slightly lower than December.

In February, the 787 was flying 136 hours and 40 minutes across 46 test flights. That is an average of 2 hours and 58 minutes of flying time which is dramatically lower than January.

Through the first 15 days of March, the test flight fleet has flown 103 hours and 50 minutes over 37 flights. This equates to an average of 2 hours and 49 minutes per flight....even lower than February.

Thus utilization of the test flight fleet has been decreasing since first flight. If Boeing hopes to certify and deliver the 787 then the aircraft test flight utilization has to dramatically increase.

10 comments:

Gianfranco said...

Thanks for this article ! I was wandering if I was the only one to think that the program progressed very slowly, with a few number of flights, and an average time in flight very low too...

dbrick said...

Just happened to be at Paine Field for the takeoff of the 2nd Boeing 747-8 on Sunday and got a few photos:

http://kom.net/~dbrick/boe747/

skywalker said...

Great summary and analysis! The testing to date has not lived up to the bravado Boeing used when it announced the Flight Test Program. Planes were to fly long test programs during the day, be serviced at night and then be released the next morning to do it all over again. Only ZA001 has come close to this pace (still short as you point out). The other planes seem to stay on the ground a lot. I wonder if this is shaping up as the next Boeing blunder where denial meets reality. If the pace does not quicken it appears as if we are headed for another delay.

Uresh said...

Thanks for the pics dbrick!

Uresh said...

I don't think it'll be a big blunder at all and the number of flights and flight hours will increase when the other two planes come on line but Boeing does need to increase the flight hours especially for ZA001 and ZA002. They also need to get ZA004 in the back in the air soon. ZA004 had it's first (and only) flight almost 3 weeks ago. I understand it's has an important ground test job in testing the service ready flight software but it also has other important testing parameters that it needs to complete.

Rob said...

Seems to me that once TIA (Type Inspection Authorization) is achieved, then the volume testing starts with FAA aboard. . . Presumably the ETOPS testing will start to add hours quickly once it starts (for both engine types)

Dan said...

Could ZA002 be accumulating flying hours out of VCV that arent being picked up on FlightAware due to possibly being VFR etc? ZA002's activity isnt showing up a lot since shes been in VCV.

Uresh said...

Yes I believe ZA002 is flying out of VCV but we don't se eanything on flightaware for some reason. I check Boeing's flight test web site daily to see the chane day over day for the number of flights and the flight time. That's the only way you can track it.

dbrick said...

Uresh, where's "Boeing's flight test website"?

Uresh said...

Go to: http://787flighttest.com/