Saturday, May 15, 2010

Five Months In...787 Flight Test Update

With 5 months completed on the 787 flight test program, Boeing is starting to make some headway but there are still some headwinds ahead for the test program. The primary concern is completion of the 3100 hour flight test program as well as the associated 3700 hour ground test program. Additionally, the last two 787s powered by the GEnx-1B engines still have not flown though the first one, ZA005, is progressing towards its first flight. Some milestones that were accomplished (as of May 14th) were:
Receiving the expanded TIA from the FAA allowing FAA inspectors on board the certification flights
  • Flying the longest 787 flight to date (accomplished on May 14th with an 11 hour test flight by ZA004)
  • ZA004 achieves 100 test flight hours
  • 787 program goes over 650 test flight hours
  • ZA003 under goes cold and hot weather testing at Eglin and Lackland Air Force Bases
  • Commencement of certification flight testing on board ZA004 with the FAA
  • ZA001 flies its 100th flight

It does seem that some schedule margin has been eaten up and there is word circulating around that Boeing can be three months behind in delivering the first 787 to ANA. Still Boeing has reiterated their guidance of 4th quarter 2010 for delivery of ANA's first 787.

It does seem that Boeing is starting to ramp up more test flights and keep the airplanes in the sky longer. ZA004 has been doing long duration flights with an 11 hour flight on May 14th from Victorville and flying over the Pacific just west of the Baha Peninsula. On May 15th this aircraft is doing another similar test flight over the eastern Pacific just west of Mexico. ZA002 also did a test flight over the inside passage just north of Vancouver, BC. This represents the test flight in international airspace as well as over foreign airspace.

In the last one month, the 787 test fleet has flown over 176 test flight hours. As of May 14th the fleet has accumulated 662 hours and 20 minutes of test flight time. That leave Boeing to accomplish flying the 787s for more than 2437 flight hours in the next 6 months. That equates to posting about 13 hours and 15 minutes of flight time each day for the next 6 months or about 93 hours a week. This is still doable but I believe that Boeing has no margin left in schedule. An important point that everyone reading this should be left with is that Boeing has encountered no major issues during the flight test program, nothing that could be considered a show stopper. If this trend continues and Boeing is able to put up the test flight fleet over 13 hours a day then they can make it.


johnv777 said...

WOW - the 787 fleet accumulated over 50 hours in a 3 day span. (May 14 to May 16) This appears to be good progress - hopefully it is a positive trend.

Uresh said...

Yup, ZA004 has been accumulating hours like crazy. They've been flying the wings of that plane for the last few days. It continues today.

skywalker said...

Uresh, Could you research somehow whether all the flight hours posted to the Boeing Flight Test site (which I assume you use) are hours that can be used for certification? If not (think ferry flights), then you may be overstating the number of flight test hours earned so far. Also, I've heard that if two tests are performed during one flight, those hours can be double counted and applied toward certification. If true, then your analysis understates the number of hours that are counted toward certification. Kindly understand I'm not trying to be critical as I appreciate your site very much. Just wanting to reconcile my gut feeling that the flight test program is way behind versus what we hear from Boeing that there is still some margin left and that there will not be any more delays.