Sunday, March 27, 2011

15 Months In.....

Ok so it has been a while and I've been out of circulation a bit but I'm back so let's get down to business!

All photos courtesy of Boeing


Boeing's enlarged version of their iconic widebody, the 747-8I, took to the skies on March 20th at exactly the time that Boeing said it would fly. The test flight crew of Mark Feuerstein and Paul Stemer took it up for a four plus hour test flight which exceeded all expectations and allowed Boeing to proceed with test that normally would wait until well after first flight like testing stability and control conditions. The 747-8I that flew, RC001, landed at a little at 2 pm local time at Boeing Field where the two plane test flight fleet will be based. RC021, the next 747-8I to fly is already starting preparation for ground testing and has already had its first APU start at the Everett fuel dock. The 747-8I test program will take about 600 flight hours and should be done in about 8 to 9 months at the outside. Boeing is expecting to deliver the first couple at the end of the year after the aircraft is certified. Meanwhile the 747-8F test program continues apace as that program continues to tick off more certification milestones as it aims for certification and delivery in about 3 to 4 months.


787 program is now aiming for first delivery for late July to ANA, according to Flightblogger, which is within Boeing's delivery guidance but is much earlier than expected and may reflect the conservative estimates that Boeing had put out when they announced the latest delivery schedule.

Test flight testing pace has slowed since the January-February time frame indicating that much of the certification testing is already complete and Boeing is ready to move into the final phase of flight test: functionality and reliability testing and ETOPs flight tests. It is expected that this testing should start around May and conclude around mid July. The Trent powered 787s have completed 85% of the certification test points that it needs to achieve while the GEnx equipped 787s are about 70% complete with their certification testing.

Additionally, ZA004 is now expected to switch out it's Trent-1000 "A" package engines for the improved package "B" engines around the first week on April. All the while, Boeing will continue to churn out 787s in Everett. Already Boeing is working on airplane 36 and will start on airplane 37 sometime tomorrow. Boeing is well on it's way to implementing the change incorporation program with many of the 787s at Everett already going through the re-work process in order to be in compliance with the expected FAA type certification expected in July. Boeing is expecting to deliver the first 787 to ANA in July followed by JAL and Air India in October and China Southern probably around the November-December time frame. All in all Boeing will probably deliver about 20 787s this year and I expect that most of those delivered will be the the aircraft requiring less rework though I would think that the earlier build 787s all should be delivered by around February of 2012 at the latest.

Japan Earthquake

A big unknown that has crept into Boeing's plans is the effects of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan will have on not just 787 production but indeed on the production of all Boeing jets. Boeing uses the just in time method of operations to keep inventories (and thus costs) low. However with this potential disruption caused by the earthquake, tsunami and problems at the Fukushima nuclear plant Boeing has admitted that they may have just a few weeks of parts for their airplane programs. For the 787, the major tier 1 suppliers are in Nagoya which is south of the affected zone. However other minor suppliers are situated in the areas that were hit. As it stands Boeing is still saying that as of right now, 787 production is unaffected but long term we will have to watch. Boeing is planning to increase production to 2.5 airplanes per month later this summer (June according to Flightblogger) and with the start of production at Charleston in July will go higher still meaning that the Japanese suppliers will be needed to make sure they have the infrastructure and electrical needs in order to meet the higher output milestones this summer.

Speaking of Charleston, that plant is practically done and I think they may start production on time in July. They are going to be done with the interiors production facility in December and should be in a great position to contribute to the 787 production increase to 10/month.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Boeing selling spree continues, Hainan orders 38 jets including 32 787s

Boeing won an order for 30 787-9, 2 787-8 BBJ and 6 777F in an order announcement that came at the Asian Aerospace 2011 show. These aircraft were ordered by Hong Kong Airlines and are an MoU (subject to being finalized. Hainan Airlines Co. Ltd. ownes Hong Kong Airlines. This is a big day for Boeing widebody offferings as earlier they had announced another MoU with Air China for 5 747-8I.

This is the first significant order for the 787 since United Airlines placed an order for 25 787s in 2010. A delivery date has not been announced but I suspect it will be in 2015 or so.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Air China buys 747-8I

Boeing announced that Air China has agreed, pending Chinese Govt. approval, to buy 5 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft. When finalized, Boeing will have 30 firm 747-8I order from airline customers. The yalso have 8 747-8I orders from Boeing Business Jets. Air China says that the 747-8I will be delivered over the next three years.
Boeing's Press Release:

Boeing, Air China Sign Agreement for 747-8 Intercontinentals

Air China to become first Chinese customer for Boeing's newest jumbo jet

HONG KONG, March 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing (NYSE: BA) and Air China today signed an agreement for the purchase of five 747-8 Intercontinental jetliners. Air China is the first Chinese carrier to contract the passenger version of the new, fuel-efficient 747-8.

The agreement requires Chinese government approval, at which time it will be posted to the Boeing Orders & Deliveries website.

"Air China has been operating 747s since the 1980s," said He Li, vice president of Air China. "The new, high capacity Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental will deliver exceptional economics and a great flying experience to our customers."

Air China, the flag carrier of the People's Republic of China, will use the airplanes to expand its international routes.

"The technologically advanced 747-8 Intercontinental will deliver improved operating economics, efficiency and environmental performance in support of Air China's continued growth," said Marlin Dailey, vice president of Sales & Marketing, Boeing Commercial Airplanes. "Air China has become one of the fastest growing airlines in the world and today is one of the world's largest carriers. We're proud to be part of their success and look forward to continuing our long and enduring partnership."

The new 747-8 Intercontinental carries 467 passengers in a three-class configuration. The airplane features a new wing design and an upgraded flight deck. The airplane interior incorporates features from the 787 Dreamliner including a new curved, upswept architecture that will give passengers a greater sense of space and comfort, while adding more room for personal belongings. The architecture will be accentuated by lighting technology that provides smooth transitions for a more restful flight.

Using 787-technology GEnx-2B engines, the airplane will be quieter, produce lower emissions and achieve better fuel economy than any competing jetliner. It also increases cargo volume by 26 percent.

ZA177 in San Antonio for Change Incorporation (Boeing Photos)

After flying ZA177 (LN 23 for Japan Air Lines) down to San Antonio (Lackland Air Force Base) last week, Boeing is now ready to start the process of change incorporation into the built 787s as well as incorporating the needed changes back into the supply chain.

First a little background. Throughout the testing and certification program (either ground test or flight tests) for the 787, Boeing and the FAA identified changes that needed to be made to the 787s in order for them to be certified to carry passengers. These changes can be numerous and each task can take anywhere from a few minutes to weeks to complete. The added complexity is that each task has to be undertaken in a certain order so as not to duplicate any disassembly tasks as well as not to cause any damage to the aircraft. The airplanes will not receive the customer interiors (seats, galleys, IFE, etc.) in San Antonio. That work will be done in Everett after the change incorporation process is completed.

Boeing said that a total of 6 787s will go through change incorporation in San Antonio including the last 3 787 flight test aircraft (ZA004, ZA005, and ZA006) which will be refurbished for delivery to unannounced customers. Boeing has not identified the other production 787 that will undergo change incorporation in San Antonio but has said that they send additional 787 to San Antonio for change incorporation work as they see the need. The other airplanes that are not flown to San Antonio will have work done at Everett. Currently Boeing has 35 787s assembled or are in the process of final assembly bu change incorporation will only occur on LN 4 and later. Currently that is 32 airplanes. As modifications are identified and the detailed engineering and design changes are finalized, they will be incorporated back though the final assembly process and into the supply chain (at least that's the plan). It is not known how long each aircraft will take in change incorporation. Here's Boeing's press release:
Boeing Begins Change Incorporation Work on 787 Dreamliner

787 program continues steady progress toward certification and delivery

EVERETT, Wash., March 7, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Today, Boeing (NYSE: BA) began change incorporation work on the 787 Dreamliner at Boeing's Global Services & Support site in San Antonio, Texas. Airplane #23, the first 787 to undergo change incorporation, on Friday flew from Everett, Wash., to San Antonio on a ferry flight. During change incorporation, airplanes that are not part of flight test are configured to conform with the standards established as part of type certification efforts. Refurbishment of three of the six 787 flight test airplanes also will take place in San Antonio after completion of flight test activities.

"The 787 team is thrilled to have the expertise and enthusiasm of the San Antonio team focused on getting these airplanes ready for delivery to our customers," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program.

The current plan is for six Dreamliners to complete change incorporation and refurbishment in San Antonio. Three will complete change incorporation and three airplanes will be refurbished after flight test is complete. However, the plan is flexible and could accommodate additional 787 production needs as flight test is completed and airplanes are prepared for delivery. The work will be performed from March 2011 through 2013.

"We continuously look for ways to leverage the strength of the Boeing enterprise, taking advantage of the team and the skills we have across the company," said Fancher. "San Antonio specializes in modification work and has the capability and capacity to get the job done. The team was a natural choice."

Some of the work done in San Antonio will include installing electronic and mechanical equipment, completing software upgrades, testing functional systems, and removing and reworking wiring or equipment that needs to be updated to current configuration requirements. Approximately 450 employees will be hired on a temporary basis to join with 1,700 experienced workers at the site to complete the work.

"Everyone on our team is excited to join the 787 program," said Kevin Devine, vice president and general manager of the San Antonio site. "This airplane is about as advanced as you can get and there are high expectations tied to this work package. I am confident that our team will get the job done."

Currently, there are about 1,500 employees at Boeing's San Antonio site performing maintenance and modification work on the following programs: KC-135 Programmed Depot Maintenance, KC-135 Global Air Traffic Management, C-17 Globemaster III Sustainment Partnership and the C-130 Avionics Modernization program.

There are other changes coming to the 787 flight test fleet...actually just one airplane. ZA004, which was to have the package "B" Trent 1000 engines installed last month will now have those engines installed between March 18th and April 6th.

Lastly, the 787 flight test fleet went over the 3,100 flight test hour mark yesterday when ZA003 completed a 2 hour and 10 minute test flight. It is epected that ETOPS testing should begin late this month and carry on into July.