Sunday, July 31, 2011

787 still faces uphill production issues as flight testing winds down

UPDATE (8/2/2011): ZA233 is now expected to have its B-1 test flight today. The sensor in question was not connected propoerly and the issue has now been rectified. It should be flown to Lackland AFB in San Antonio Texas in about a week or so.

Boeing's 787 program is currently winding up the flight testing and certification program for the 787 as ZA102 has flown more than 2/3 of the needed 300 flight test hours for the F&R/ETOPs flight testing campaign. This aircraft just returned from more than two weeks for flight testing around the western Pacific flying out of Guam. According to the latest stats, ZA102 has completed about 218 hours which puts it on track to complete the final phase of 787 testing in about 11 to 12 days (assuming 7 flight hours per day). Given that Boeing would wait about 30 days for final type certification from the FAA, this would give Boeing the opportunity to finally start deliveries to ANA around mid September. Indeed ANA has announced that the 787 will fly charter service between Narita and Hong Kong starting in October, one month after receiving it's first 787. However, questions are arising as to the timing of future deliveries to ANA and other customers after the first delivery.

As Boeing prepares for the delivery of ZA101 it is currently in the midst of another 787 assembly stoppage in 40-26 as issues with the assembly completion of the rear fuselage sections is forcing Boeing to institute this halt. It appears that Boeing will have these start and stop production hiccups on the 787 final assembly line for the foreseeable future and this is going to complicate Boeing's attempts to ramp up to 10/month by the end of 2013. They're were planning to be at a 2.5 production rate during this summer but now they're saying that the 787 line in Everett will be at 2.5 sometime in 2011. My opinion is that Boeing will not reach 10/month until sometime in mid/ late 2014. The ongoing change incorporation program along with supplier challenges will continue to weigh down the 787 production rate in the near term.

Even so Boeing is still experiencing issues in getting the 30 787s that they have assembled ready for customers. With Boeing trying to correct many of the supplier defects in parts as well as incorporate the changes mandated by the FAA as a result of test flying, Boeing is still having trouble getting planes ready for delivery. Re-work is simply taking way too much time due to the amount of work that has to be done on each airplane though later airplanes need less time in re-work. We have to all stay tuned for development regarding this issue in the 787 program. Boeing has reduced its guidance ithat they will deliver this year (from upwards of 40 to now upwards of 30). It is understoood that the number of 787s will comprise the majority if not all of the reduction guidance.

Lastly, ZA233, a 787 for Air India made it first flight today (July 31, 2011) but unfortunately lasted only 15 minutes as the aircraft an inflight anomoly which they said is a failed sensor. Boeing is currently checking all these sensors in the assembled aircraft. This airplane is scheduled to make the trip to San Antonio for change incorporation and re-work and then be delivered to Air India by the end of the this year. This issue is not expected to cause any delays.

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