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.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Flightblogger: 787 production line halt for 1 month

Flightblogger revealed today that Boeing has halted any further shipments of 787 parts into Everett in order to allow the supply chain to catch up with shortages of parts as well as to address engineering changes.

According to the post this is the first work stoppage this year for the 787 line and started in early July. The stoppage will last until the first week on August though manufacturing work will continue on the airplanes that are currently on the line as well as those that are under going change incorporation.

Some corrections to my earlier post via Flightblogger's post: LN 46 which is the first 787 to be built in Charleston should start final assembly later this month perhaps as early as late this week and that aircraft will go to Air India.

Lastly, Flightblogger is also reporting that Boeing is planning to update the 787 delivery guidance during it's 2nd quarter results conference call scheduled for July 27th. Boeing is maintaining its plans to deliver 12 - 20 787s by the end of this year as well as to increase production from 2 to 2.5 787 per month this summer and to be pushing out 10 787s per month by the end of 2013. There should be more clarity on July 27th as to those plans.

Boeing is still preparing to deliver ANA's first 787 during the 3rd quarter (August/September) but what is unknown is the pace of follow on deliveries which appear to be sliding to the right. Air India was supposed to be receiving its first 787 around November and now it is understood to be scheduled for December. Similarly, Flightblogger said that Ethiopian was supposed to receive its first 787 in December 2011 and is now expected to receive it in March 2012.

These slides are probably a result of the extensive amount of re-work and change incorporation that each aircraft has to have done before they are delivered as well as feeding these changes back into the supply chain.

Read Flightblogger's post:

Flightblogger: Boeing holding 787 line for a month, to update 2011 delivery guidance

787/747 Update

Boeing continues to make steady progress towards the 787's delivery target schedule for sometime next month or the month after. ZA102 (LN9) has already flow about 86.25 hours of the approximately 300 hours needed to to complete F&R/ETOPs testing as of July 10th. Currently the airplane is in Hawaii for tests and will be returning to Paine Field today.

ZA002 has just completed SROV testing in Japan with final testing between Tokyo and Nagoya. From all indications, the testing went very well and the production aircraft will be service ready when they start reaching customers. Here's a recap of ZA002 schedule from the past week in Japan:

Flight 1 LV. SEA 7-3-11 5AM ARR. HND 7-4-11 6:30AM
Flight 2 LV. HND 7-5-11 6:30AM ARR. ITM 7-5-11 7:30AM
Flight 3 LV. ITM 7-5-11 11:30AM ARR. HND 7-5-11 12:30AM
Flight 4 LV. HND 7-6-11 6:30AM ARR. KIX 7-6-11 8:00AM
Flight 5 LV. KIX 7-6-11 12:00PM ARR. HND 7-6-11 1:30PM
Flight 6 LV. HND 7-7-11 6:00AM ARR. OKJ 7-7-11 7:30AM
Flight 7 LV. OKJ 7-7-11 11:00AM ARR. HND 7-7-11 12:30PM
Flight 8 LV. HND 7-7-11 3:00PM ARR. HIJ 7-7-11 5:00PM
Flight 9 LV. HIJ 7-7-11 7:00PM ARR. HND 7-7-22 8:30PM
Flight 10 LV. HND 7-10-11 6:25AM ARR. NGO 7-10-11 7:30AM
Flight 11 LV. NGO 7-10-11 6:00PM ARR. HND 7-10-11 6:45PM

When ANA starts revenue service with the 787, the destination will either be Okayama or Hiroshima from its base at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo.

Next stop for ZA002 is India where it will fly be shown to customers Air India and Jet Airways. Air India is expecting it's first 787 in December of this year while Jet Airways will receive its first airplane sometime in 2014. ZA002 will fly from Haneda in Tokyo to Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi and then on to Mumbai. From there it is not known if ZA002 will fly back to Seattle or will fly on to other destination for other visits with customer airlines.

The 787 test fleet continues to fly occasional Boeing test flights with ZA001, ZA003 and ZA005 taking flights over the past week or so.

Production continues at Everett at a rate of two 787s per month. Boeing will starting final assembly on ZA261 (LN44) for Ethiopian Airlines on July 20th but more importantly, the first 787 to be assembled in North Charleston, SC will start final assembly on August 17th. That airplane ZA286 (LN46) for United Airlines already has its wings delivered to the final assembly hall and will be waiting for the forward fuselage from Wichita as well as the center and rear section just next door to the final assembly hall. the horizontal tail plane form Grottaglie, Italy as well as the numerous other parts (tail fin from from Washington State and landing gear) are expected to be delivered soon. Boeing is expected to increase production from 2/month to 2.5/month though it is still unclear when this increase is supposed to happen. The current schedule doesn't show assembly start dates past airplane number 46 which indicates that Boeing is currently reviewing plans for future assembly start dates and thus reviewing the ramp up to the 2.5 rate.

Meanwhile Boeing has added a third 747-8I to the flight test program. The aircraft, RC003/N5020K will be used to perform high intensity radio frequency tests. It is in Southern California currently. The 747-8F F&R testing has continued but RC523 has not carried out any test flights recently. Boeing is very close to finishing off the 747-8F test program and anticipates delivering the first 747-8F to Cargolux this summer.