Thursday, April 22, 2010

Boeing talks 787 progress and possible 777 upgrade

Boeing Photos
Jim McNerney, speaking on Boeing’s earnings conference call, says that flight testing of the 787 is on track and that Boeing still plans to deliver the 787 as planned by the end of the year. The 787 just received its expanded Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) from the FAA which means that the certification flights tests will begin. While this will be the longest (and most important) phase of the test flight program it also means that a lot of the risk in the 787 program has been retired. Boeing says that the aerodynamic configuration of the 787 is now fixed and that there won’t be any need for changes in the shape of the aircraft. Now essentially the FAA has to collect data for them to be assured that the aircraft is safe to operate in regular passenger service.

Another 2,600 hours?

To date, Boeing has accumulated over 500 flight test hours on the 4 test airplanes (the final two should be in the air in late May and mid June). That leaves about 2,600 of flight test hours that need to be flown by the end of 2010. Boeing has said that while some of the flight test schedule margin has been eaten they would be able to gain some of that margin back because data collection on each flight has been greater than anticipated as well as maturity of the aircraft systems has proven to be better than anticipated. In order to fly the 2,600 flight hours by the end of November (allows Boeing to receive type certification and prepare the first 787 for delivery in December) they would need to fly the test fleet over 81 hours per week. Not an impossible task but they would need to start doing that now. However, as Boeing tests the aircraft and sees no needs for configuration changes in the aircraft or the systems. This has opened up contingency and because they are getting much more data from each flight and retiring more of the risk and certification requirements it will lessen the need for more flights to accomplish all the required tasks. As future flights are flown Boeing feels that they can do more on each flight than they anticipated which would mean that they could add to the schedule margin. This is certainly a huge positive for the program and means that when ANA receives its first aircraft, it should be a matured system. All in all there is a lot of confidence in the 787 program especially with the testing that has been done thus far and what they can accomplish by the start of the 4th quarter. The tentative schedule for the 787 test fleet is as follows: ZA001 - won't fly until early May; ZA002 - should fly around April 30th; ZA003 - should fly around April 27th, ZA004 - should fly soon.

777 or 787-10

One big development from yesterday’s earning’s conference is that Boeing may decide to do an update of the 777 instead of developing the 787-10. This could have plenty of advantages which include reduced development time, lower R& D expenditures as well as better performance vs. the 787-10 (and by extension the A350-900 and A350-1000). A decision on this may be made by the end of this year.

Saj Ahmad of has a great analysis piece on the 777 vs 787-10.

Improved 777 May Get Nod Ahead Of 787-10
Lastly, Flightblogger is in Florida freezing his b**t off with ZA003. Check it out here.

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