Wednesday, April 29, 2009

787: Boeing flight test update

Well I'm gleaning news from a few different sources but Boeing released a lot of information on the upcoming flight test program for the 787.

One major take away: Boeing still is sticking with first flight by the end of June, 2009.

First let's see how the work is divided up between the 6 test flight airplanes (this is from Guy Norris' article):

ZA001: aerodynamics and handling characteristics, flutter, stability and controls, low speed testing, check out of the full data system, major systems integration work and check out.

ZA002: test stability and control, autopilot, avionics, propulsion and electric systems.

ZA003: tests of electro-magnetic/high-intensity radiated fields (EME/HIRF), systems, noise, flight deck, ETOPS, avionics and minimum data system.

ZA004: high speed aerodynamic performance, community noise, propulsion, ETOPS and flight loads survey

ZA005: repeat some flutter work because it is the first GEnx-1B powered version, as well as performing stability and control, aerodynamic performance, propulsion, avionics, community noise and ETOPS

ZA006: lightning-specific EME tests, and HIRF, more ETOPS and miscellaneous tests with minimal analog requirements.

First Flight: Flight duration will be anywhere from 3 to 5.5 hours depending on weather and other factors. First flight will fly Dreamliner 1 from Paine Field to Boeing Field where the test flight team is based. There will be no overflight of Seattle on the first flight nor will there be a barrel roll a la 707.

Some other interesting nuggets: 60% of the required paperwork for certification has been completed and submitted to the FAA. Of the 40% remaining less than 10% is using flight test data.

The 787 will be ETOPS certified to 330 minutes and minimum of 207 non ETOPS

43 pilots and 1000 engineers and mechanics will be involved with the 787 flight testing program.

While I was not there there are plenty of media that were and here's where you can link to their reports though I'm also waiting on Jon's report:

Guy Norris (Aviation Week)

Andrea James (Seattle PI)

Everett Herald (Michelle Dunlop)

ATW Online (Aaron Karp)

Flight International (Stephen Trimble)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Flightblogger: Dreamliner 1's power hiccup

Jon Ostrower just put up a post relating what happened with the electrical system during the gear swing test. Boeing engineers are still conducting analysis of the issue which occurred when power was switched from ground power to internal power and the aircraft systems unexpectedly shut down.

You can read Jon's entry here.

Also Dreamliner 1 looks like it'll be outside by Tuesday morning in spot 104 on the Boeing flightline after getting a bit of paint touched up. Jon also reported that there is a "bread truck" at the spot on the flightline.

June 19th possible first flight date?

A source has told me that June 19th might be the date for first flight of the 787. This is only a possible date whereas another source told me he heard that mentioned as a date but that it keeps changing...daily.

This date has to be taken with a grain of salt as it is unconfirmed and subject to change given the progress with 787 testing.

Also intermediate gauntlet testing should get underway sometime in May though I'm not sure when in May.

Guy Norris: Dreamliner 1 moved out of the hanger...into the paint hanger!!

UPDATE: The reason for the move into the paint hanger is for a final aqueous wash of the fuel tanks prior to fuelling the airplane. I am thinking that the airplane will come out by Wednesday morning (April 29th) and start intermediate gauntlet testing sometime this weekend. Pending Boeing's investigation in to the electrical issue that occured during thegear swing test, the intermediate gauntlet can move up or back.

Guy Norris posted part 7 on his road to 787 first flight series and here he reports that Dreamliner 1 was indeed moved out of the 767 assembly hanger at 4 AM local time this morning...and into the Boeing paint hanger. The aircraft already received a touch up paint job in March so why it moved into the paint hanger again instead of the flight line is a mystery.

That being said, I'm confident that if there was a major issue with the electrical system, Boeing would have kept this airplane in building 40-24. Guy also reported that ground vibration testing is going well on ZA002 with no issues cropping up.

You can read Guy's report here.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Guy Norris: Possible snag in Dreamliner 1 test

Guy Norris is reporting that there may be a possible snag for the 787 testing. Guy said that the landing gear swing tests went well however there was an unexpected electrical systems problem. Boeing was going to perform a special electrical systems test to troubleshoot the problem but that test has been put on hold indefinitely.

Guy does not know if this will effect the rest of the test program or the date for first flight.

Stay tuned.

Read Guy's posting here.

Flightblogger has picked up the story though nothing new yet to report. Read Jon's posting here.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Flightblogger: Dreamliner 1 conducts gear swing tests last night

UPDATE: I'm hearing that Dreamliner 1 could be out on the flightline as early 10pm-11pm local time on Sunday night (April 26th). Also Dreamliner 2 should be flying within weeks after Dreamliner 1 goes up. I'm still maintaining my bet that Boeing can have Dreamliner 1 up in the Air by May 31st but let's see how the rest of gauntlet testing goes in May.

According to a posting by Jon Ostrower this morning, Dreamliner 1 (ZA001) conducted the final landing gear swing tests late last night inside building 40-24. Boeing should have also carried out the ground vibration testing very early this morning on ZA002. ZA001 should be out on the Boeing flightline when the sun comes up over Everett on Monday morning. Plane spotters in Everett, get your cameras late Sunday night/early Monday morning!

My guess is that intermediate gauntlet testing should start on Tuesday at the earliest.

Read Jon's posting here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Guy Norris: Ground Vibration Tests to start tonight(Friday Night)

Guy Norris posted a brief update saying that ground vibration testing on ZA002 is due to start tonight. Also Boeing is preparing for the gear swing tests on ZA001 which requires loading ballast weights back on the aircraft as well as re-rigging the gear and gear doors. Read Guy's posting here.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Flightblogger and Guy Norris report more progress towards 787 first flight

A huge amount of work has been done on the path to first flight since the end of the factory gauntlet.

Jon Ostrower reported that the Boeing tested the wings on the static test airframe to over 100% of the wing limit load. The limit load test is to test the wings to 100% of the loads that it would ever experience in flight. Boeing tested it 120% - 130% of those loads, far exceeding the requirement necessary to proceed to first flight. This amounted to a wing tip deflection of about 17 ft. This was the final test required on the airframe prior to first flight. Later after the test flight program is well underway, Boeing is required, for certification purposes, to test the wings to 150% of the limit load. This is the ultimate load test.

Read Jon's posting here.

Guy Norris reported that landing gear tests will take place this weekend but that flight control operating tests will be done by test pilots on Wednesday, April 22. This involves the movement of the flight control surfaces and testing of the mechanical and electrical linkages of those surfaces that are connected to the flight deck. Guy Norris said the successful completion of these test will allow Dreamliner 1 to move on to the next gauntlet test, the intermediate gauntlet.

Finally, Guy also reported that ZA002 finished up HIRF (high intensity radiated field)/electro-magnetic interference testing on Tuesday (April 21) and will now be readied for ground vibration testing on Saturday.

Read Guy's posting here.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Can Boeing fly the 787 before the end of May?

I had an interesting discussion with a very knowledgeable industry journalist and we were discussing the prospects of Boeing flying the 787 by the end of May. This journalist told me he thinks Boeing can have Dreamliner 1 flying by the end of May (a well known aerospace analyst told me he thinks first flight will be in the 3rd quarter) and another leading and well known industry watcher concurs with the end of May time frame is possible if Boeing continues to have the same kind of success with the rest of the ground testing program it enjoyed with the factory gauntlet.

This brings up an interesting question and analysis of this question. I think Boeing can pull it off given the successful completion of the factory gauntlet (this is just a discussion piece based on my guesswork and estimates, nothing here came from Boeing or any sources). Here's how:

The 787 is pulled out of building 40-24 this week and is prepped for the start of intermediate gauntlet. Intermediate gauntlet starts next Monday (April 27th) and is completed latest by May 1st. If the test data is clear then the Final gauntlet starts around May 4th and in completed around May 15th including test data evaluation. Next comes the fun part with hot fire, taxi test, braking tests, V1 (rejected takeoff) over the next two weeks after that and then the big take off run to history!

Doable, but I'm still adding a couple more weeks for any issues or funnies to crop up and get fixed. That could take us to just before Paris Air Show time.

Flightblogger: Dreamliner 1 may make an appearance on flightline tonight

Jon Ostrower is reporting on his blog that Boeing is confirming the successful completion of the factory gauntlet as confirming that final gear swing tests are taking place and after that should be cleared to be pulled out to the flightline as early as tonight (Tuesday night). Jon reported on Guy Norris' post that reveal the successful completion of the factory gauntlet.

This would be a successful milestone as Dreamliner 1 wouldn't return to the hanger until after the flight test program is completed (barring any unknown unknown problems that may crop up). On the flightline Boeing is expected to continue gauntlet testing leading to Hot Fire tests, Taxi/Breaking Tests and first flight. The dates for all these are still unknown.

Finally, Jon also is reporting that ground vibration testing is going to start soon (I had earlier reported that ground vibration testing is close to being completed), perhaps as early as tomorrow followed by the HIRF and electro-magnetic interference tests.

Read Jon's report here.

Also Guy Norris has written a great article on testing progress to date and the process going forward. Read his article for Aviation Week here.

Boeing produces first 747-8F wings

Image Courtesy of Boeing

Boeing announced today that they produced the first set of wings for the newest member of the 747 family, the 747-8F. Boeing is just finishing up the last 747-400ERF airplane and is well into the production of the 747-8 series.
The first 747-8F is expected to rollout and have first flight later this fall with EIS in the third quarter of 2010.
Here is Boeing's press release:

EVERETT, Wash., April 21, 2009 -- The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] has completed major assembly of the first set of wings for the 747-8 Freighter. The new 135-foot 3-inch (41.2 m) wings incorporate the latest aerodynamic technologies to fly farther and more efficiently. The advanced airfoil provides improved overall performance and greater fuel capacity.

The Boeing 747-8 Freighter and Intercontinental are the new high-capacity 747s that offer airlines the lowest operating costs and best economics of any large passenger or freighter airplane, while providing enhanced environmental performance.

Guy Norris: Factory Gauntlet completed ahead of schedule

Guy Norris over at Aviation week just reported that the factory gauntlet was completed ahead of schedule. Boeing is now moving on to the pre-intermediate gauntlet test activities which include landing gear retraction tests.

The flight test team will test the retraction of the landing gear inside building 40-24 to make sure there are no surprises when Dreamliner 1 finally takes to the air. To do this the aircraft will be jacked up off its landing gear so the test can take place. Once outside the landing gear can't be tested until the plane flies so the flight test team will test it and make sure that there are no issues.

I think Dreamliner 1 should be outside by the end of the week.

You can read Guy's posting here.

Lastly, Matt Cawby is reporting that vibration testing is almost complete on Dreamliner 2 and that High Instensity Radiated Fields (HIRF) testing is up next for Dreamliner 2. See it here.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Flightblogger: Factory gauntlet begins at 6:30AM PT on April 20th

UPDATE (April 20, 2009, 3:16PM): Boeing has confirmed to Flightblogger that the factory gauntlet has indeed started and should finish by tomorrow morning. An external computer has been hooked up to Dreamliner 1 to test how the airplane "flies." Read Jon's post here.

According to Jon Ostrower, ZA001 will start the first of three gauntlet tests this morning at around 6:30 AM PT. It is expected that this gauntlet should be done by early morning on April 21st thus paving the way for ZA001 to be moved to the flightline.

Jon also confirmed that the flight test wiring is mostly connected and all the external panels have been reinstalled.

Boeing is also getting an accurate measurement of the 787 OEW (operating empty weight) by removing the ballast and weighing the aircraft. It's not known what the result was but it is widely expected to be over the contractual weight.

Jon also reported that the rear fuselage section that was just delivered for ZA100 (Dreamliner 7) was 96% complete. Read Jon's post here.

As I reported on this blog earlier, it is expected that all traveled work in the 787 program will be eliminated starting with Dreamliner 8 (ZA101).

Lastly, Matt Cawby on his photoblog reported that Dreamliner 1 completed engine and APU fire protection systems tests in both the ground and air modes. See Matt's posting here.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Guy Norris: 787 factory gauntlet to start on April 20th

UPDATE, 9:05 PM, Sunday April 18, 2009: The LCF arrived today in Everett delivering the first fuselage section (rear fuselage sections 47/48) from ZA100, the first production standard 787. Matt Cawby got a great picture of the section being offloaded the LCF at Paine Field. Click HERE to see the picture.

According to Guy Norris at Aviation Week, the factory gauntlet test is planned to start on April 20th and should finish in the early morning of April 21st. The final software system integration test was passed on April 17th allowing for Dreamliner 1 to proceed with the start of the final systems checkout (on Sunday April 19th) and on to the start of factory gauntlet on the 20th. Guy reported that Dreamliner 1 will be put through 2 set of test during factory gauntlet each lasting 10 hours each.

Also on tap is the testing of the flight test instrumentation system that is on baord the 787 and will be recording all the test parameters during the flight test program. Major systems checkout is also being performed as well as inspection of the flight control surfaces and checking the trim on those surfaces as well as the doors and panels.

In my estimation, Dreamliner 1 can be out on the flight line as early as April 22nd which also happens to be the day that Boeing reports 1st quarter earnings. There will be an earning conference call during which I expect some general news about the 787 schedule to be revealed by Jim MeNerney.

Read Guy's posting here.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Guy Norris: 787 activities picking up

Guy Norris, who write for Aviation Week and has a blog called "Things with Wings" recently posted the first part of his 787 update.

In it he reports that activities around ZA 001 are picking up pace ahead of the start of the factory gauntlet. The aircraft's ballast tanks for flight test were loaded with water. This allows the airplane to simulate passenger and cargo loads as well as shifting centers of gravity on the airplane during flight.

Read Guy's posting here. It's quite informative.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Flightblogger: Gauntlet Testing pushed out a week

Jon posted today that gauntlet testing has slipped with the factory gauntlet now scheduled for about a week later than originally planned. The reaon is to realign the shop completion date with the start of gauntlet testing. This will also be the date that the manufacturing team will hand over Dreamliner 1 (ZA001) to the flight test team. When this date is is unclear.

Jon also reported that ZA002 is close to starting ground vibration testing though that date is unclear as well.

Read Jon's report here.

In other 787 news, Gulf Air firmed up the conversion of 8 787 options that it held to a firm order. Gulf Air initial order was for 16 787-8 plus 8 options. With exercising these options, which Gulf Air had stated their intention to do a few months ago, Gulf now has 24 firm 787 on order and Boeing has 886 firm 787s that they have to deliver.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Flightblogger: Still waiting for gauntlet testing to start

Jon Ostrower is reporting that the factory gauntlet, widely expected to have started by now, has not yet started. It may start by the end of this week. As a consequence, the rollout of Dreamliner 1 probably won't occur until the end of April now.

Also the wings for LN 7 (now ZA100 as Boeing changed the internal designation of the production standard aircraft) have arrived into Everett last night and the rear fuselage should be in by the end of this week. Dreamliner 7 will be the first 787 delivered to launch customer ANA. I suspect that it'll take a month for this airplane to get outside to the flightline because of the three airplanes (ZA004, ZA005, and ZA006) that will be in front of it. Matt Cawby got a great picture of the wings being offloaded the LCF at Everett. Click here for the picture. Click here for Jon's post.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Aviation Week: Trent 1000 getting closer to spec

Jon Ostrower reported on an article in Aviation Week that Rolls Royce is closer to getting the Trent 1000 engines closer to its original fuel consumption specs.

The improvement won't show up until later this year when ZA004 will be outfitted with the improved engines. The production ready motors will be installed on the 12th 787 (ZA105 or the 6th production standard 787).

Read Jon's article here.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Flightblogger: Boeing shuffles 787 deliveries

Huge news broke by Jon Ostrower. It looks like that ANA will be receiving 11 787s in the first 3 months when deliveries start in Feb. 2010. It seems that the Chinese carriers are not taking 787 deliveries for now. They have been complaining that the 787-8 is falling short of their expectations.

Jon is also reporting that Delta will not be taking up it early deliveries though all these carriers still have their orders intact. It seems they're going for the later deliveries far upstream. Boeing has indicated that the first 20 aircraft built will be overweight and the aircraft thereafter should meet weight specs that were originally promised and contracted for.

Lastly Jon reports that the 6 test aircraft have not been allocated to any customer even though Boeing previously said that ZA001 and ZA002 will go to ANA, ZA003 and ZA004 will go to Delta, and ZA005 and ZA006 will go to Royal Air Maroc. It seems that this not going to be done but will be allocated to carriers after they have been refurbished. Read Jon's story here.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Flightblogger: 787 preps for factory gauntlet

Jon Ostrower got another detail filled post out not too long ago. In it he confirmed what I posted with regards to the the factory gauntlet: factory gauntlet will start in about 10 days around April 10th) and should take 2 to 3 days after which it will be rolled out to the flightline.

The intermediate gauntlet will occur in mid-May soon after ZA002 (Dreamliner 2) joins ZA001 out on the flight line. while ZY998 the fatigue airframe will go back to the factory (though I'm not sure if it'll go to the 787 (40-26 building) line or the 767 line (40-24 building)) for continued structural re-work. My guess is it'll go to 40-24 so as not to interfere with 787 production.

ZY997 the fatigues test air frame is under going a quality assurance reconciliation before moving to the wing load limit test.

Read Jon's posting here.

Lastly, I found out that LN6 has completed wing body join.

Dreamlifter Fleet

In a rare moment photographer Matt Cawby got a nice picture of all three 747 Dreamlifter LCFs on the Boeing Ramp yesterday. There's supposed to be a 4th Dreamlifter but that is probably delayed until such time that Boeing will need it during the ramp up to full production.

Click here to see the picture.