Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Flightblogger: On the road to 787 First Flight

Jon posted a nice update on Dreamliner 1. Read it here. In it he confirms that ZA001 was moved out of the paint shop last Saturday (March 21st) back to building 40-24. He also says that ZA001 can be out on the flight line as early as next week (yesterday I said it could be out there later this week) and factory gauntlet testing (the first of three gauntlet tests) can possibly take place out on the flight line with the airplane hooked up to external power as well as using its battery.

Lastly, it seems that Bloomberg picked up on the post I put up yesterday. Click here.


Anonymous said...

Isn't 787 Plane # 2 supposed to undergo vibration tests in the very near future. I understand that the equiptment to perform this test has been brought into the factory.

Uresh said...

Yes but I'm still trying to get more information on this.

Anonymous said...

Is EIA5161 carrying section 47/48 for LN7 to KPAE right now?

Uresh said...

Don't think so. I think it's a training flight.

Anonymous said...

Could you describe the three phases of the gauntlet test and how long each lasts. Thank you

Anonymous said...

Do the tests on planes 3-6 have to take place before plane #1 flies....that is, are there things to be tested on all the planes that preceed flight of plane #1.

I do think that the vibration test is required before the flight of #1....are there others too?

Uresh said...

Nothing has to be done to LN 3 to LN 6 prior to first flight of LN 1. The ground vibration testing is being done on LN 2 only to validate it for the entire 787 fleet. There's no need to do ground vibration testing on the other airplanes.

Anonymous said...

Do you know where the 6 test planes are refurbished after the certification process is completed.

Are they then sold to one of the customers who have ordered a 787. I gather that the buyer would be aware that it was a test plane.

Does it take alot of work to refurbish these planes. I think 1 & 2 still has a fastner problem to be remedied after the process is completed

Uresh said...

1) All six test airplanes will be refurbished at a Boeig facility in San Antonio

2) Yes these airplanes already are spoken for: LN 1 and LN 2 will be going to ANA, LN 3 and LN 4 will be going to Delta (though we have to see if they cancel the order in which case Boeing can give them to another early customer). These custoemrs are already aware that they're getting the test aircraft.

3) I'm not sure how long it will take but the work will mainly involved removing all the flight test equipment replacing the fasteners that they didn't have access to and then installing the customer interiors. All 6 will have to havesome sort of fastener rework done, not just hte first two.

Anonymous said...

Will planes # 7-21 also need fastener work or will they be delivered clean without that problem and the assemblage has learned its lesson.

If that be the case, planes 7-20...or at least many of them, should be ready for delivery when certification is granted following a successful airbourne test by planes 1-6.

Uresh said...

7 through 21 will be fine and won't need rework. 7 through 20 should be ready pending any changes that need to be made as a result of flight testing.

Anonymous said...


How early into the actual flight test will Boeing know that planes 7-20 do/do not need to be "reworked".

That is, at what point in the final phase of testing is it clear that there are/are not problems. All the way at the end?

I ask, because I am trying to guage the availability of delivery of planes 7-20 . If no rework, are they all set to be finalized and delivered during the same quarter?

If rework is discovered, I guess it depends on the amount of rework...

Is there some time span between final airbourne flight and certification.

I hope you understand what I am driving at...i.e under the best of circumstances, when those planes will know it and be prepared for delivery

Anonymous said...

Regarding the rework of Ln1-6, I don't know about other partners but we (a tier 1 supplier) will certainly be doing some rework or replacement of parts installed on those airframes before they are delivered to customers. This is to address issues which aren't critical for first flight but which Boeing doesn't want to deliver to customers.

Anonymous said...

Tier 1 supplier,

How substantial is that rework or replacement of parts and how long would you you estimate it to take.

Anonymous said...

Tier 1 Supplier,

I gather that there will be no need, barring needed modification from flight testing, to do any rework or replacement of parts for planes 7-20.

It seems that if all goes well, planes 7-20 can be delivered and planes 1-6 will be reworked and delivered following that.

Anonymous said...

Uresh, do you think you could explain the risk of producing planes 7-20 while testing is going on.

Are the possible problems exposed early in the testing period? That is, if testing takes approximately 10 months, at what stage is it evident that there are only "minor" problems and planes 7-20 can be readied for delivery.

Conversely, do problems arise in the 8th month that would require major rework of this tranch of planes.

This seems to be a very crucial period of time with alot of risks translatable into the supply and production chain.

Anonymous said...

Boeing is very experienced in building and producing planes. They are also one of the best aerospace companies in the field of flight testing.

Is their methodology such that they enter into the flight stage of testing only after most of the possibilities have been explored and the probablility of problems have been minimized. Should this be assuring?

Anonymous said...

Most of the above questions seem to revolve around risk during the flight tests as well as the risks that adhere to a production schedule that builds planes while the tests are ongoing.

It seems to me that Boeing is famiiar with these possibilities and has organized its flow to react to these contingencies.

Could Uresh address these issues and try to clarify the interaction between testing and production.

The whole idea is to get the planes certified asap as well as get production lined up so deliveries are efficient.

Uresh said...

AS far as reworking on airplanes 7 to 20 after flight testing gets underway. First Boeing has to diagnose the problem see what the remedies are make sure that those solutions don't create any new issues and then implement the changes into the assembled aircraft as well as back into the supply chain. How long will it take to detect issues that would have to be fixed is anyones guess.

Boeing has had the opportunity over the last 3 to 4 years to test and re-test the structures, software, and hardware as well as perform intense intergration testing betwen hardware and software. I'm sure they would implement the change imcorporation program as soon as they area ble. They have performed a lot of structural analysis and that revealed problems (center wing box issue and the fastener issue).

Given all the testing and modelling done to date, I think Boeing will uncover just some minor issues which probably won't effect their timeline but there are unknown unknowns that won't be revealed until the airplane takes to the air.

There is always a risk with carrying on production when the first plane hasn't flown but I think Boeign is experienced enough that they feel pretty confident in the aircraft and their testing to date that the issues they uncover will be small and won't effect their timeline to terribly.

One thing to note that flight testing also gives the manufacturer data to see where they've over-engineered the aircraft and pin point areas for weight reduction and improvements. This is what happened in the 777-300ER. The airplane was delivered well within spec but Boeing analyzed the flight test data and found areas whre they can retrofit weight reduction improvements as well as engine improvement by GE. The result was a better airplane now then when it first came off the assembly line. I think this will happen to the 787 in all its forms.