Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Boeing 787 Update at Farnborough

Pat Shanahan gave a 787 update this morning in the UK though short on details (as opposed to the one in April) it still suggests that they are on track for first flight late this year. Power on was successfully completed with a few minor glitches that were quickly resolved. Boeing is finalizing the shipping date of the two remaining sections for LN 4 later this week. My guess is that they will be in Everett by the end of next week but we’ll see.

Boeing is planning to activate LN 1’s hydraulic system next week, otherwise known as “oil” on (as opposed to power on). This will allow Boeing to raise and lower the landing gear in the hanger before first flight (you don’t want to test something like that on first flight in case something goes wrong). It will also allow Boeing to test all the movable flight surfaces (flaps, slats, elevator, rudder and speed brakes). As reported on this web site earlier, Boeing was planning to move the fatigue air frame from 40-24 to the fatigue test area and move LN 1 from 40-26 to 40-24. The later move is probably in doubt due to hydraulic on next week and the need to test some of the mechanical systems. I think the move of LN 1 probably won’t occur until 1st to 2nd week of August

Regarding LN 4 – the damage to the main fuselage caused a disruption in the schedule and the certification process maybe impacted though Boeing says they do have some schedule margin to absorb the disruption in the schedule.

Speaking of margin, Shanahan said that small glitches in the production schedule is eating up some of the margin. I’m presuming that he’s talking about LN 4 and that may be a cause for concern further down with certification testing. Everett is now the bottleneck for continuing production. The suppliers are no longer the issue and they have greatly improved on reducing traveled work. Look for no traveled work starting with LN 8, by then Global Aeronautica should be shipping 100% complete sections, Spirit is already shipping 100% complete sections with LN 4 and Vought will ship 100% complete rear fuselage sections starting with LN 5.

One issue with regards to the road to first flight is the traceability of the brake control software to meeting certification requirement which is being characterized as a minor issue and that a fix is being implemented. Crane Co. is responsible for that part of the Dreamliner.

Right now Boeing is saying that APU and engine testing is due to start next month, followed by gauntlet testing (a series of tests that trick the airplane’s computer into thinking that it’s in flight and see how the systems react to normal flight procedures as well as in flight anomalies). This will be followed by taxi and brake tests and then first flight. Shanahan is saying first flight should take place around November but I personally think it’ll be October if there are no major issues.

So far Boeing has completed 98% of safety of hardware testing, 96% of hardware is qualified for first flight (will be 100% by 2nd week of August) and 95% of hardware is ready for first flight. Despite this progress there is still some part shortages with LN 1 though these are minor. There is still some work to do in the mid fuselage and the wing of LN 1 and they need some tubing to complete the fuel system on the airplane as well. Also they need to complete airplane 2 before airplane 1 can fly as airplane 2 will be used for ground verification tests. Finishing up work in the mid fuselage of LN 2 also has eaten into some of the margin.

In terms of future variants, Boeing is planning to finish trade studies for the 787-9 by the end of the year and have a firm configuration for the 787-9 by the 2nd quarter of 2009 and entry into service by early 2012. They also said that the 787-3 will benefit from the experience gained on the 787-8 and 787-9 thus indicating that they are still going to go ahead with that variant though the time table is still up in the air.

On the static test aircraft frame, testing is due to start soon with three main tests to be done soon: pressurization testing, leading/trailing edge testing, and vibration testing.

Until the next update…have fun and keep your head in the clouds!

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