Thursday, April 15, 2010

Four Months In...787 Flight Testing Update

Four months after ZA001 embarked on its first flight the 787 test flight fleet continues to rack up flight test hours across four airplanes. Some of the milestones that were completed over the last month include:

  • Completion of ground effects testing in Victorville, CA by ZA002
  • Completion of flutter testing by ZA001
  • Achieved 15% of total flight test hours
  • ZA001 flies over 300 flight test hours
  • ZA002 flies over 100 flight test hours
  • ZA004 flies Wedge V5.5 service ready software
  • Successful completion of the ultimate load test to 150% of maximum load on ZY997

One notable achievement that was supposed to be achieved during the past month was the issuance of the Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) by the FAA but as of today it still has not been issued. Word is that ZA002 needs to finish testing of the latest version of the flight control software before the FAA can issue the TIA. The issuance of the TIA may occur on April 16th though I am taking that date with a grain of salt. Still if it is issued tomorrow it does represent another 2 week slide in the test schedule thus eating up a total of 2 months of the schedule margin that Boeing allowed for itself. This may indicate that certification would not be given until early to mid December. I'm still waiting to hear from Boeing regarding the TIA.

As of April 14th, Boeing has flown 486 flight test hours spread across 164 test flight. The average flight has lasted about 2 hours and 58 minutes. The average flight utilization continues to decrease. In March it was 2.91 hours per flight and half way through April it is down to 2.65 hours per flight.

In order for Boeing to certify the 787 by early December (33 weeks), the 787s would have to fly over 2,600 flight hours which would equate to over 79 flight test hours per week. I speculate that the reason for the low number of flight test hours is the need to get the TIA from the FAA so that the real certification flight testing can commence. This seems to be the long pole in the tent at this point.

As far as ZA005 and ZA006, the GEnx powered aircraft maybe delayed even further though no reason has been given. ZA005 might be delayed to May 24th and ZA006 won't fly until June 21st.

Production is continuing with the 21st 787 entering final assembly. The 22nd 787 will start final assembly in about 10 days. Saj Ahmad of has a great take on the the availability of early 787 delivery slots and their value in the market place. QANTAS and Virgin Blue are looking for early delivery slots with the former already having the aircraft on order and the later having converted to firm 777-300ER to options and possibly looking for early delivery slots for the 787. Read Saj's article here: : Boeing 787 Slots Become Sudden Precious Commodities


johnv777 said...

Thanks again for your detailed and insightful website. I continue to find significant discrepancies in the hours reported by you and the information on Flightaware.
For example , on 4/14/10, for ZA001 you reported 1 flight lasting 5h 5om while Flightaware reports 2 flights: Boeing Field to Grant county 24m, and grant County county to Boeing Field 29m.

Uresh said...

I cross reference the information on Flightaware to what Boeing puts on their flight test web site. Sometimes Flightaware is not accurate at all so I don't trust it too much.

johnv777 said...

Thank you for the explanation. I also find Flightaware inaccurate at times, however this was a big discrepancy.

Uresh said...

No problem. Also remember that since th aircraft was performing low altitude tests it may have drpped off Flightaware.