Thursday, May 26, 2011

787 and 747-8: Coming to the finish line; delivery set for Aug./Sept. for 787

Boeing has for all intent and purposes declared that the finish line is insight for the 787-8 and 747-8F airplane flight tests and are preparing the gaggle of airplanes sitting at Everett Field for delivery to customers. These announcements came at Boeing Investor's Conference held on May 24th. Boeing program manager's also made revelations regarding the 787-8 and its future variants both in terms of new product development as well as production.

Flight Testing


Boeing confirmed that F&R and ETOPS testing will start in early June. Earlier I had reported a June 9th start date and that date looks to be solid. Functionality and reliability testing will test the aircraft as if it is in a commercial airline environment with simulating failures and other problems to see how the 787 will handle it. The test airplanes will be used but critical to this testing will be the use of ZA102, the ninth 787 built and recently re-worked to full production standard with all the necessary change incorporation modifications that were needed. This is the standard that all production 787 in which all will be delivered. So far the Rolls Royce powered 787s have completed 96% of required testing and the GEnx powered 787s are done with 75% of testing.

The FAA must issue an amended type inspection authorization (TIA) before Boeing can start F&R and ETOPs testing but that should happen soon. Thus far, of the 4,200 deliverables that needs to be completed for type certification of the Rolls powered 787, less than 150 remain to be done and of those less than 40 need to be submitted to the FAA directly. ETOPs certification will be accomplished on test points that need to be run and not the number of flight hours. Those test points will be run during the 300 hours needed for F&R testing thus both tasks will be tested concurrently.

As this required testing draws to a close, Boeing will send ZA002 during the week of July 4th to Japan for service ready validation operations (SRVO) where the airplane will be inducted into ANA's operations. This testing is to ensure that the 787 is ready for life as a passenger carrier and not a test airplane. ANA and Boeing will conduct fit checks with maintenance stands and jacks within the hangar, ground servicing operations, refueling and maintenance activities, as well as simulate operations between initial city pairs that ANA will fly the airplane on like Tokyo, Osaka, and Hiroshima. Read Boeing's statement:

Boeing and ANA to Conduct 787 Service Readiness Validation in Japan

-The first time the 787 will fly to Asia and Japan

TOKYO, May 26, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing [NYSE: BA] and ANA today announced how the two companies will work together to help prove the 787 Dreamliner's readiness to enter service on a commercial basis. Using the second flight test aircraft, known as ZA002, they will simulate in-service operations across several airports in Japan in a service ready operational validation. The validation is expected to take place the week of July 4. Anticipated city pairs include trips between Haneda Airport in Tokyo and airports in Osaka (Itami and Kansai), Okayama and Hiroshima.
This will be the 787's maiden appearance in Japan. ANA is the launch customer for the aircraft and has 55 Dreamliners on order. The 787, which will be deployed across the ANA route network, is an integral part of ANA's strategy to strengthen its position and support its growth and expansion plans.

"ANA is eager to introduce the innovative 787 Dreamliner to Japan," said Shinichiro Ito, ANA president and chief executive officer. "Giving our employees the opportunity to gain experience with the airplane will help ensure a smoother entry into service later this year."

"We've put the airplane through its paces in a rigorous flight test program," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. "Now, as we get closer to first delivery, we'll prove out its capabilities and reliability in a revenue-like environment."

ANA's maintenance crews also will practice maintenance and servicing of the 787 during the validation. This will include typical ground servicing activities, fit checks of airplane jacks and maintenance hangar stands, towing and refueling the airplane, and other routine maintenance operations. Watch this video to see how Boeing and ANA are planning for the validation.

Similar service ready validations have been conducted with great success on previous Boeing programs, including the 777, 737NG and 757-300.

Boeing plans to deliver the first 787 to ANA in the August to September timeframe.

After SRVO is completed along with ETOPs and F&R , Boeing will submit PSOC (program statement of compliance) which will allows the FAA to rule on type certification for the 787 and allow Boeing to deliver in August/September. My gut feeling is we can see first delivery around mid to late August after ETOPs and F&R testing is completed in mid to late July.

There was no word on testing for the GEnx powered 787 though Boeing is completed with 75% of testing. Boeing still has to announce when F&R and and ETOPs testing will start on ZA005 and ZA006 but I anticipate that Boeing will have to have on production GEnx powered 787 ready to support that testing. It could be ZA177 which is the 23rd 787 built and destined for Japan Airlines. It is currently undergoing rework and change incorporation at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas. Still I would not completely rule out a production plane straight off the assembly line especially if it require very little work to get it ready for flight. Considering that carriers such as JAL, Air India and China Southern have ordered the GEnx-1B, Boeig will be under pressure
to finish up certification activities for the GEnx powered model. I wouldn't expect first delivery to JAL until October at the earliest. GE has received more orders for it's GEnx-1B engines to power the 787 than Rolls Royce has for the Trent 1000 engines.


Like the 787, the 747-8F is also nearing the end of its certification tests. It still has to conduct F&R testing and the the start of this testing is dependent on the FAA signing off on part of the Honeywell design flight management software and its readiness to conduct F&R testing. Still according to Guy Norris Boeing expects the start F&R testing around the end of May. To signify how far 747 testing has come, Boeing has sent one 747 test airplanes to Lackland AFB to undergo change incorporation and preparations for delivery. RC503 has been at Lackland AFB since May 13th for the required rework. Flight testing on the 747-8I continues and is currently well over 200 flight test hours between the two flight test aircraft. Boeing has said that the flight test program for the 747-8I will be about 600 flight test hour thus this program is already more than one third of the way through the flight testing hours that is needed.


Boeing also addressed production rates at the conference. Currently, production of the 787 is at two per month. Interestingly, James Bell, Boeing CFO said that Boeing would have built 40 production standard 787s by the time the first one is delivered to ANA. Given that Boeing has just started work on the 35th production standard 787 and at the current pace of 2 per month, Boeing should be at number 40 around August. Boeing is being extremely cautious when it comes to increasing production rates, especially on the 787. They have stated that until they know that they can handle the next production increase without travelled work the rate won't increase. That said they are saying that the 787 production increase to 2.5 per month is expected to start later this summer (August/September in my opinion). Additionally Boeing North Charleston will come one line in July with the first 787 for United Airlines to be loaded in the tooling jig. With all the problems that Boeing has had with the production system, Boeing has indicated t hat they are prepared to move production of the horizontal stabilizer for the 787-9 from Alenia and back in house within Boeing at Seattle. This was in many way not unexpected given Alenia's performance on the HTP for the 787-8. However, Boeing may need to negotiate the move of that work from Italy to Seattle with Alenia as it is Alenia that owns the design though it is unclear if the current agreement between the two firms extended to the 787-9. This tale (pun intended) is not over.

Future 787 Variants

Boeing has always left the option of building variants of the 787 including the larger 787-10 (now known as the 787-10X). During the conference Boeing, while not outright launching the 787-10X has given strong indications that they intend to do so. They plan on a stretch of about 6m which would accommodate an additional 43 passengers over the 787-9 which can carry 290 passengers. This would squarely put it in competition with the A350-900 and can possibly be seen as a replacement for the 777-200 and possibly the 777-200ER. The expected range is going to be less than that of the 787-9 due to keeping the same wing as the -9 variant. James Albaugh, head of BCA said of the -10X, "I believe this will be an airplane we will probably do."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Boeing to start 787 ETOPs testing June 9th.

According to sources, Boeing's latest schedule, thus far, has the 787 program starting F&R and ETOPs flight testing on June 9th. This information comes on the heels of ZA102 restarting flight tests after several months going through re-work and change incorporation at ATS Hangar 3 in Everett.

This aircraft flew a 50 minute check flight and landed back at Everett. No word yet on first delivery date but it is anticipated that ETOPs and F & R testing should take about a month followed by type certification for the Rolls Royce powered 787. Currently Boeing is 95% through the certification program for the Trent 1000 powered aircraft and 75% complete on the GEnx-1B powered version of the 787. Delivery of the first GE powered 787 to Japan Airlines is expected about a month or so after delivery of the first 787 to ANA.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

787 North Charleston Factory becoming a hot button political issue

Wow, who'd ever thought that the 787 and the where it is built would be a hot button topic between the national political parties but there you have it. Republicans want President Obama to weigh in on the decision by the NLRB to pursue action against Boeing for locating a 2nd 787 production facility in a right to work state, South Carolina.

AS many of you all know, Boeing decided to place a 2nd assembly line for the 787 in Charleston. IAM 751 which represents Boeing machinists in Washington were incensed by the decision and filed a complaint with the NLRB alleging that the decision was "payback" for four strikes, the last of which was very damaging to Boeing.

The issue, for many, is can the Union (through litigation) force a company to alter or make business decisions that it disagrees with. Not surprisingly this has many people up in arms and can be the NLRB says it's an illegal transfer of work. The problem with that argument that Boeing didn't transfer work from Everett to North Charleston. The Boeing workers in Everett didn't lose their jobs with the decision to open a 2nd line in North Charleston nor are they going to...not with a backlog of over 850 787s to be delivered. Everett will be building 7 787 per month and North Charleston 3 per month when the full currently planned production rate is realized. Thus the NLRB case maybe on shaky ground in my opinion. What does seem certain is that this will be another wedge between Boeing and IAM 751 which will do neither side any good in 2012.

In the end I agree with what Flightblogger had said...Boeing will probably agree to make the 787 surge line in building 40-24, a temporary assembly line that allowed production to be increased as North Charleston came online, to be permanent. Boeing may need to increase production anyway to get back on schedule after the three years of delays in any case. Boeing will still have North Charleston opening up in the next few weeks and it will still give them redundancy in case there is a strike in Everett.

Back to the Republicans asking Obama to weigh in on the NLRB complaint against Boeing. This also puts the President on shaky ground and he doesn't want to appear anti-business (a charge that has been frequently hurled at him) but he does need the support of the unions going into 2012. It'll be interesting to see if the White House responds but I'm willing to bet that he won't take the bait and will remain on the sidelines on this one.

CNN: Top Republicans demand Obama weigh in on Boeing dispute

Monday, May 9, 2011

Trent 1000 engines get ETOPS 330 approval from FAA

Today the FAA gave Rolls Royce its seal of approval for ETOPS 330 (meaning the engine can operate on flights that are 330 minutes from the nearest airport). This is an important milestone but one that should not be confused with the ETOPS approval needed for the airframe (787) and engine (Trent 1000 or GEnx-1B) combination. That testing should start next month along with functionality and reliability testing. Boeing seems to getting close to those needed tests which will be the final set of tests prior to type certification and first delivery to ANA which is still expected in late July.

To add further evidence, ZA102 (LN 9), a 787 that has already flown in support of 787 flight testing and certification has been pulled out of the ATS Hangar 3 to the Everett flightline. It had spent months in the hangar going through change incorporation and re-work in order to participate in the F&R and ETOPs testing. It appears that Boeing is preparing it to resume flight tests.

ZA004 did start the process of swapping out its Trent-1000 package "A" engines on April 27th (starting wit the left engine) and the process should be concluded around May 18th (with the right engine). After some ground testing the aircraft will reenter flight testing probably around early June.

Lastly, Boeing also confirmed that the final version of the software that runs the 787 electrical systems has been installed on all flight test aircraft. This is the final hurdle required by the FAA that allows Boeing to proceed with the final phases of flight testing in light of the fire on ZA002 last November. Currently Boeing says that they are through 95% of the testing on the Rolls Royce powered 787 and 75% of required testing on the GEnx-1B powered airplanes. It should be noted taht flight testing has been muted in teh last few days. I'm trying to find out why.

The 787 is now finally on the road to the home stretch.