As BOE787 (ZA003) is winging its way over Canada, the North Atlantic and on to Farnborough, questions have arisen over the current pace of flight testing in the 787 program an whether Boeing can increase the pace of flight tests in order to deliver the first 787s to ANA on time by the end of this year.
Scott Fancher has raised a yellow flag of caution late last week by saying that delivery may slip by a few weeks into January of 2011. Now a few weeks in the whole scheme of things is really nothing and in context of the more than two and a half years of delays in program it's a few raindrops in a lake, however, what is concerning is that pace still has not risen to what it needs to be even if Boeing hopes to delivery in January, 2011.
As of July 14th and completing 7 full months of flight testing, the Test Flight Fleet has amassed over 1,162 flight hours. This is not even 40% of the required 3,100 flight hours that Boeing needs to certify both the Rolls Royce and GE versions of the 787. If Boeing hopes to certify at least the Rolls Royce version, they've got over over 1,200 flight test hours to complete over the next four and half months...that's pace of over 266 flight hours per month the Rolls Royce powered airplanes...not an easy task given the current pace of test flights. In June Boeing flew only 49 test flight though they did fly for over 209 flight hours. This still is down from the previous month (May) where Boeing flew 104 flights and accumulated over 349 flight hours. July is not looking much better with over 96 flight hours flown thus far.
Another area of concern is that the GE powered 787s are due to be delivered to some major airlines such as JAL, Air India, RAM and Continental but only one of the GE powered aircraft is flying (and flying a lot). The last GE powered 787, ZA006 is still on the ground and program sources have told me it may not fly until early September. It does seem to me that there will be a delay in delivering the GE powered airplanes to customers as a little over 9% of the needed GE fight hours have been flown and the second airplane that's needed won't be off the ground until early September. The pace of test flight on ZA005 will be watched to see if Boeing can get the GE powered 787 certified in time. Of course the pacing item will still be getting the over 2400 hours on the Rolls powered airplanes completed by early December at the very latest.
You can check out my latest tracking of the 787 test flight progress below: