Monday, January 31, 2011

Is Boeing almost all done with 787 flight testing?

Sometimes you get clues from the most interesting sources. In this case the clue is from Dinesh Keskar, president of Boeing India and a statement he made to the Hindustan Times. I'm not sure if it's true but if it is, then it is notable with regards to how much testing is left. Here's what was in the Hindustan Times:

The Dreamliner flight test programme, he said, was in full swing with the aircraft having completed 2500 hours and another 300 hours were needed to be done after which they will get the Federal Aviation Administration certificate.

“Once that is obtained, which we are expecting this summer, then we can begin deliveries all over the world,” he said.
Boeing has since accumulated just under 2700 flight hours on the 787 (as of yesterday) which implies another 100 flight test hours. I have to take it with a grain of salt though. It is unclear if Dinesh Keskar was including any ETOPs testing in that 300 hours (which Boeing has not yet started). I tend to think that it is not included and that ETOPs testing will add a couple hundred more hours to the total. Still I'm waiting to hear back from Boeing as I did put this question to them.

Read the Hindustan article:

Hindustan Times: Boeing will deliver 787 Dreamliner to AI this year

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Flightblogger: First 787 delivery in September

Flightblogger, citing industry sources, says that Boeing will deliver the first 787 to ANA in September. During today's conference call Boeing reiterated it's intention to ramp up 787 output to 10/month by the end of 2013 for the current 2/month. Additionally, Boeing is saying that it will deliver roughly 20 787s this year though at this point it is unknown which 787s will be delivered though Flightblogger says ZA100, ZA101, and ZA102 (currently flying) are candidates to for delivery this year along with ZA177. Certainly I feel that most of the 787s delivered this year will go to ANA but a few will probably also be delivered to JAL and Air India is Boeing can manage 20 deliveries. As it stands about 20 to 25 787s need extensive re-work and Boeing has to devote significant resources to get these airplanes flight ready.

Also a very important question has been answered...Boeing will deliver the 787 with ETOPS certification though that certification work will have to wait after a permanent fix to the electrical issues that ZA002 encountered in November has to be implemented before that testing can proceed.

In other news Flightblogger also reported that ZA005 will be heading down to La Paz, Bolivia for high altitude take off and landing test after conducting similar tests at sea level in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico.

You can read Flightbloggers two informative posts here:

Flightblogger: Sources: ANA to see its first 787 in September

Flightblogger: 787 heads south for the winter in search of high and low ground

787/747-8 Bullet Points from Boeing's Earnings Call

Boeing says they've completed 75% of required testing needed for delivery

787 high risk conditions mostly retired

787 production continues to improve

Currently 2/month production rate for 787

Still maintaining 787 10/month build rate by end of 2013

787-9 still targeted for delivery at end of 2013

747-8I first flight expected by end of March, 2011, first delivery still expected by end of year

Still expecting to deliver 747-8F by middle of 2011

Expect to be completed with 787 settlement negotiations with 787 suppliers by the end of the year

787 not in a forward loss position but profitability is under pressure

787 customer claim negotiations are still ongoing but are tracking to expectations

Expect 50/50 split between 787 and 747-8 deliveries this year (between 25 to 40 in total expected to be delivered)

Boeing expects 0 margins on early 787 and 747-8 deliveries (dilutive to 2011 earnings)

United says it expects its first 787 in 1Q12

787 ETOPS is fully in the schedule and will be delivered in 2011 with ETOPS certification

787 parts are coming in more completed then before

Boeing had a conservative view of 787 production ramp up but that margin is now eaten up with the slide in deliveries

Boeing has a clear view with 787 FAA certification.

ETOPS 0n 787 is different vs. 777 - fault and condition based for 787 ETOPS instead of cycle based for 777

Boeing and FAA are in agreement with testing requirements for ETOPS

Temporary fix of electrical issues is flying on 787s right now but permanent fix must be installed before ETOPS testing starts; most other testing is largely done

Boeing is still sorting out which 787 line number will be delivered first though they are close to finally figuring it out

20 -25 787s need re-work. The later units are have levels of completion (currently at line 31).

There is some 787 schedule margin which is measured in weeks

Boeing Charleston assembly building is ahead of schedule

Boeing's 2010 Earnings Out

Boeing released their 2010 full year earnings this morning and they were negatively impacted by the problem in the 787 program. In terms of the 787 there wasn't much in the press release except for this one tid bit:

Commercial Airplanes' 2011 deliveries guidance is expected to be between 485 and 500 airplanes and is sold out. It includes the first 787 and 747-8 deliveries (combined 25 to 40 units), which are expected to begin in the third quarter of 2011 and mid-2011, respectively.

Boeing has about 16 747-8 built (including the first 747-8I) and assuming they build one per month will imply that Boeing may have about 28 747-8 built by the end of 2011. Currently Boeing has about 22 production 787s built. Assuming 2/month build rate for 6 months (12) and then 3/month build rate for the last 6 months (18) will give Boeing 52 787s built through the end of the year.

I think that the 747-8s production is in a better state compared to the 787 thus of the 787s and 747s to be delivered it would be more of the later. There is simply too much re-work to be done on the 787s that are already built and waiting on the Everett flight line. Boeing may opt to deliver the later build aircraft which are expected to be more fully completed and requiring little re-work to be done. If Boeing is to deliver 40 787s and 747s I think it would be about 25 747s and 15 787s. It will all depend on how fast they can re-work the 787s (and some of the 747s) as well as how smooth the production ramp up goes on the 787 line.

Boeing's 2010 earnings press release

Scott Hamilton just put out a piece on 747 and 787 deliveries, he feels that 18 747s are realistic but the number of 787s will be fewer than 22:

Scott Hamilton: Boeing projects 20-40 747-8, 787 deliveries this year

Here are a couple of articles from Aspire Aviation and following on the heels of Boeing's earnings announcement:

Aspire: Boeing posts mixed 2010 4th quarter, full year results

Saj Ahmad: Boeig 737 will be replaced not re-engined

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Guy Norris: ZA005 heading to Puerto Rico

As I had mentioned earlier, ZA005 is flying to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. At the time I wasn't sure what the test objectives are for ZA005 but Guy Norris has revealed that it is heading down to the Caribbean to undertake take off and landing tests. Boeing had the aircraft in New Mexico the last couple of days doing take off and landing tests at high altitude airport in Albuquerque. The airport at Aguadilla is at sea level.

Guy also goes into a flight test fleet update and states that ZA003 should be flying very soon as well. ZA006 is undertaking ground tests and should be flying again soon though no date is evident.

Guy Norris: Tropical Test for 787

Boeing North Charleston continues to take shape

Boeing's 787 facility in North Charleston continues to take shape. to the left is a screen grab from the builder's web cam showing it's progress through this morning.

The plant is schedule to be completed by May with production on the first 787 to start in July and first delivery is scheduled for 1Q12.

787 Round Up

With Boeing's earnings call schedule for tomorrow, it is expected that there will be a lot of questions surrounding the 787 (schedule, certification, production and deliveries and on and on). Scott Hamilton has a nice update on his blog. One item he highlights is the ramp up to 10/months. He opines that Boeing will have trouble reaching that rate by the end of 2013 and feels that end of 2014 or into 2015 is more realistic.

Indeed it is looking that ramp up is going to be an issue. Boeing just started work on LN 32 (ZA235 for Air India) and LN 33 (ZA179 for JAL) won't be started until January 31st and LN 34 (ZA380, the first 787 for China Southern) will start final assembly on Feb. 14th. That's a 2/month production rate though I do expect that as the years wears on, this rate will increase (to what I don't know). You can read more of Scott Hamilton's post below:

Scott Hamilton: Odds and Ends: Big week for EADS, Boeing

In the same vein, Aviation Week reports Guy Norris and Mike Mecham wrote an extensive article regarding the 787 schedule. The main concerns remain what additional testing does the FAA require especially for ETOPs out of the box certification. The FAA has told Boeing that as it currently stands, the 787 won't get ETOPs certification until Boeing can prove the 787s reliability in light of the fire on ZA002 and the engine problems that Rolls Royce has encountered on the Trent 1000.

Aviation Week: Questions Remain About Boeing 787 Schedule

Boeing is trying to ramp up 787 test flights and currently has posted over 2600 of flight time over 850+ test flights. However, ZA003 and ZA006 have yet to resume test flights. It is unknown why they have not returned to test flights. Later this morning, ZA005 is schedule to make a test flight from Albuquerque, NM to Aguadilla, Puerto Rico. We'll see if this flight actually does occur.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

First production 787 makes first flight

The first production 787 and the first 787 that will be delivered to ANA later this year made its first flight yesterday. ZA102 took off a little late at 3:53 PM PT and tested the landing gear actuation among other standard test that occurs on Boeing's B-1 flight test. Boeing said that aircraft landed as planned at Paine Field.

ZA102 will be tasked to conduct function and reliability testing and ETOPs testing though it is unknown when those tests will begin.

Boeing issued a press release after ZA102 landed:

Newest 787 Dreamliner Makes First Flight

The newest 787 - designated ZA102 - made its first flight today. The airplane took off from Paine Field at 3:53 p.m. (Pacific time) and landed just over one hour later at the same location (per the plan). ZA102 will be a temporary member of the flight test fleet and will be focused on helping to demonstrate 787 extended operations (ETOPS) and complete function and reliability testing. Earlier flight test airplanes were configured more uniquely for other testing required as part of the certification program.
Matt Cawby shot video of ZA102's takeoff from Paine as well as photos of the aircraft's return.

Matt Cawby: ZA102 First Flight

Guy Norris has posted a blog report on ZA102 testing as well as the tempo of 787 flight testing:

Guy Norris: First 787 for ANA Takes Off

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Boeing's Busy News Day

The folks at Boeing have been having a pretty busy news weeks. First they announce the 787 return to certification test flight on Monday then yesterday they announce the new delivery start date for the 787. Today more news from Boeing.

They sold American Airlines 2 777-300ER. I think this is the first of many sales of that airplane to American Air. Then with Chinese President Hu visiting the US today, both US and China announced that China is buying $19bn of Boeing airplanes (200 in total). Trouble is that these planes we sold and booked between 2007 and 2010. Dominic Gates of the Seattle Times called the order "political window dressing" for the US-China summit.

The 787 continues with flight tests as ZA001, ZA002, ZA003 (returning to test flights) and ZA005 are all flying today. A very welcomed addition, ZA102, is scheduled to fly at about 2:10PM today (local time) in B-1 flight from Paine Field to Mosses Lake and back to Paine. This is the first production 787 to fly and will be used to help certify the ETOPs rating for the 787 which, according to Dominic Gates, maybe running into trouble.

Part of Boeing's plan for the 787 was to have it ETOPs certified right out of the box upon delivery to customers. With the fire last November the FAA is very reluctant to give Boeing that certification unless the company can demonstrate that the airplane can operate reliably over transpacific and transatlantic routes far from airports in case of an engine failure or any other mechanical problem that may force the aircraft to land early.

That certification is important to many customers who ordered the aircraft based on its fuel efficiency and it's ability to operate long distances from airports on point to point travel. Boeing indicated in its press release that they have built in additional margin for any additional testing that maybe required to prove the reliability of the 787 on long duration flights. Dominic Gates is reporting that the additional margin (thought to be about 3 months) may not be enough and that it may lead to additional delays though Boeing and the FAA remain in discussion about the scope of additional flight testing needed in order to achieve ETOPS out of the box certification. Boeing may add another production 787 to the ETOPS test flights in order to accomplish this.

Dominic Gates: FAA could spike Boeing's new 787 delivery schedule

The new schedule only answered one question: when is Boeing going to start 787 deliveries, but there are whole host of questions that need to be asked and answered before people would feel that Boeing has a handle on the remaining issues surrounding the 787. Flightblogger has got a list started but I would like the readers to add to those questions in form of a comment left on this posting.

Flightblogger: Quick Take: More questions than answers with eighth 787 schedule

ANA the launch customer, is obviously very concerned about this and is now asking Boeing for delivery assurances for the delivery schedule as well as detailed schedule for each of its 55 787s they have on order from Boeing. So far Qatar Airways is sticking with them and Boeing will be entering talks with Korean Air about their 787 delivery schedule (as it will with the other customers obviously).

Aviation Week: ANA to demand 787 delivery assurances

Now on top of all the news out of Boeing comes on tid bit on information from Airbus. They're apparently are having problems on A350. Word from Airbus is that they're delaying the start of final assembly on the first A350 from third quarter of 2011 to the end of 2011. Amazingly it seems they think they could conduct first flight by mid 2012 even accounting for a 9 month final assembly. Something there doesn't quite add up. Airbus has delayed delivery of the first A350 to Qatar Airways from early 3Q13 to late 4Q13. That's about a 6 month slip. I fear that there will be additional delays in store for this aircraft which may amount to an additional year delay in the delivery timeline.

Flightglobal: Airbus pushes A350 final assembly back to end-2011

American Airlines becomes first US buyer of Boeing's 777-300ER

Boeing and American Airlines said this morning that they will be purchasing two new 777-300ER airplanes. This has been rumored for sometime though I was expecting more than two. AA will be the first US airline to purchase and utilize the 777-300ER, an aircraft known for it great fuel efficiency.

I can see this aircraft being used on routes like Chicago-Tokyo of JFK to London where American can use the higher capacity aircraft like the 777-300ER. AMR says they expect the two aircraft to be delivered in late 2012.

Here's Boeing's press release:

Boeing, American Airlines Complete Contract for Two 777-300ERs

American Airlines becomes the first U.S. airline to order the 777-300ER

SEATTLE, Jan. 19, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing (NYSE: BA) and American Airlines today announced the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier has exercised options for two 777-300ERs (extended range).

"American Airlines is an industry leader whose vision and disciplined approach to growth has made it one of the largest airlines in the world," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh. "American is the first carrier in the United States to order the 777-300ER. These new airplanes will complement their large fleet of 777-200ERs offering additional flexibility in serving the nonstop routes, while providing increased efficiency and reliability."

The Boeing 777 is the world's most successful twin-engine, long-haul airplane. The 777-300ER extends the 777 family's span of capabilities, bringing twin-engine efficiency and reliability to the long-range market.

"These additional wide-body aircraft will bolster our network strategy, particularly the international growth opportunities we expect from our joint businesses with oneworld® partners in the transatlantic and transpacific markets," said Tom Horton, President, AMR Corp., the parent company of American Airlines and American Eagle. "We value the combination of size, range and performance of the 777-300ER, as well as the extensive customer amenities it offers. The seating capability of the aircraft will give us growth flexibility in slot-constrained airports and provide us with greater ability to serve new long-haul markets."

The Boeing 777-300ER is 19 percent lighter than its closest competitor. It produces 22 percent less carbon dioxide per seat and costs 20 percent less to operate per seat. The airplane can seat up to 365 passengers in a three-class configuration and has a maximum range of 7,930 nautical miles (14,685 km). The 777 family is the world's most successful twin-engine, twin-aisle airplane.

Boeing incorporated several performance enhancements for the 777-300ER, extending its range and payload capabilities. Excellent performance during flight testing, combined with engine efficiency improvements and design changes that reduce drag and airplane weight, contributed to the increased capability.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

An apology to Heidi Wood

Back in November when Heidi Wood published a research report detailing that 787 deliveries may not take place until mid 2011 to early 2012.

I had criticized her in a blog post soon after that and I want to say that I was wrong to do that and to sincerely apologize for my criticism. People like Heidi publish research based on the best available information that they have and yes, they put themselves out there for criticism each time they publish an article or make prognostications about the companies they cover. I should have been more careful with my words despite my difference in opinion with her assessment at the time.

Round up of 787 News

Over the last couple of days, news regarding the 787 has been coming in fast. From the resolution of compensation to Spirit over its share of 787 work to this morning's announcement with the revised 787 schedule. I've posted links to some of articles and blog posts that have come out in the last few days.

One thing that should be mentioned though (that I didn't talk about in my previous post) is the crowded flightline at Boeing. Because of the new delivery date and the growing lack of ramp space at Everett, Boeing may be forced to slow down production in order to get the airplanes built prepared to be ferried to San Antonio for further rework and change incorporation. These preparations may take some time thus forcing Boeing to slowdown production. We would have to wait and see if that indeed happens. With ZA102, hopefully flying today, it may allow Boeing and the FAA to work out compromise whereby the already completed 787s can be fixed up and flown out of Everett to San Antonio and thus freeing up space to continue production.

Another interesting issue that comes up is delivery order. Boeing may deliver some of the later production models (as they would little to no rework or change incorporation). This would help with financial margins as well as continuing to free up ramp space at Everett.

Here are the links of interest:

Guy Norris: 787 Engine Update

Flightblogger: FAA returns to 787 flights, maiden production sortie, ZA002 flying Monday

Guy Norris: Boeing resumes 787 certification Testing

Dominic Gates: Boeing 787 resumes test flights for FAA Approval

Saj Ahmad: Summer Delivery on Cards for 787?

Saj Ahmad: Boeing 787 - Certification Finish Line In Sight?

Guy Norris: 787 Deliveries Slide to Third Quarter

Breaking: Boeing announces first 787 delivery in 3rd quarter 2011

As expected Boeing has announced a new delivery schedule for the first 787 to ANA. The delays in an additional 7 and half months beyond the last revised date of mid February. The revised delivery schedule takes into account the need to fix aircraft and prepare them for delivery along with any additional test points that the FAA will require Boeing to perform in wake of the fire last November.
It's no secret that Boeing also has plenty of work to do to get the airplanes that are already assembled and lined up on the flightline reworked for delivery to customers. Boeing is saying that the revised delivery schedule will not have an impact to the 2010 financial results (naturally since Boeing had last put the first delivery to mid first quarter of 2011) and that they will discuss financial guidance from the impact of the revised delivery timeline in the company's earnings conference call next week.
At the end of the day Boeing still has a lot of certification testing that they need to finish along with all the rework that awaits the 20+ 787s that are spread across Everett. Boeing also needed to build in more margin in case there are any additional issues that could crop up but at this point who knows what could come up and what kind of impact it would have.
Here is Boeing's statement:

Boeing Sets 787 First Delivery for Third Quarter

EVERETT, Wash., Jan. 18, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing (NYSE: BA) announced today that it expects delivery of the first 787 Dreamliner in the third quarter of this year. The new delivery date reflects the impact of an in-flight incident during testing last November and includes the time required to produce, install and test updated software and new electrical power distribution panels in the flight test and production airplanes.

"This revised timeline for first delivery accommodates the work we believe remains to be done to complete testing and certification of the 787," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. "We've also restored some margin in the schedule to allow for any additional time that may be needed to complete certification activities," Fancher said.

The 787 program has been gradually returning individual airplanes to the flight test program. After receiving interim software and hardware improvements, four flight test airplanes have been subjected to extensive ground testing and a thorough review to ensure their readiness to return to flight. The remaining two airplanes will be returning to flight in the days ahead to bring the full flight test fleet back up to flight status.

The revised first delivery date is not expected to have a
material impact on 2010 financial results. Financial guidance and anticipated
initial 787 deliveries for 2011 will be discussed in the company's earnings call
on Jan. 26.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Breaking: Boeing 787 resumes FAA Certification Flight Tests Today

Boeing announced a resumption of 787 certification flight test today in an email statement. Today Boeing had 4 787s flying (ZA001, ZA002, ZA004, and ZA005. The other two will be flying within the next one week:

787 Resumes Certification Flight Testing

Boeing has resumed certification flight testing of the 787 Dreamliner today. There are currently four airplanes back to flight status: ZA001, ZA002, ZA004 and ZA005. The others - ZA003 and ZA006 - are expected to be flying again within the next week or so.

Boeing is widely expected to announce the delivery schedule. With tonight's announcement of the resumption of certification test flights, I believe Boeing will announce the new delivery schedule sometime this week (Tuesday-Wednesday). Later this week I'm also expecting that ZA102 (LN 9) will take flight. This is the first production 787 to fly though the flight hours this airplane accumulates will not be counted towards certification flight testing (nonetheless I will try to keep track of the flights this particular airplane conducts).

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

747-8I Makes A Move

Boeing's first 747-8I (RC001) made a brief move from the 747 final assembly line in building 40-22 to building 40-23 where it will be undergoing more ground testing before heading outside to be painted and gauntlet testing prior to first flight which is expected in sometime in February.

A second 747-8I of the line and destined for Lufthansa (RC021) is expected to come off the line next month and be flying sometime around April. The length of the flight test program will be much shorter owing to the fact that much of the testing has already been done on the 747-8F and does not need to be repeated on the 747-8I. It's anticipated that the two aircraft test flight fleet should finish all flight test and certification activities in about 6 months with first delivery to a VIP customer in November or December of this year.

Matt Cawby got some great pictures of the first 747-8I being rolled to 40-23:

Matt Cawby: 747-8 Intercontinental Move

Monday, January 10, 2011

Guy Norris confirms 787 return to certification test flight

In a post earlier this evening Aviation Week reporter Guy Norris confirmed information that I posted on Sunday. Namely that Boeing is targeting to return to certification flight testing by late this week (January 14th). Guy also confirmed that ZA002 will be flying again later this week (on the 13th instead of the 11th which I earlier reported. ZA003 and ZA006 will also be returning to flight within the next one week and it is widely expected that Boeing will announce the revised delivery schedule sometime next week.

ZA001 and ZA005 both have been flying test flights today but ZA004 has not flown. You can read Guy posting:

Guy Norris: Fire Incident 787 Set to Return

Saturday, January 8, 2011

787 return to certification testing in a week; ZA102 to fly in last two weeks of January

Now that the Holiday are over, Boeing is trying to pick up the pace for the lost time due to the fire on ZA002. Boeing has been flying ZA001 and/or ZA004 since January 3rd though they haven't been flying very long duration flights (longest so far is about 5 hours).

However, in the coming days we should see more 787 rejoining the test flight program though for the next one week at least these will be only Boeing test flights and certification test flights.

According to information from sources, ZA005 should be flying again on January 9th (Sunday), and ZA002 will be flying again on January 11th. ZA006 will fly on January 14th and ZA003 will be flying again on January 16th.

More importantly, ZA004 is projected to restart certification flight tests as early as January 14th with ZA001 and ZA006 projected to follow on the 15th, ZA002 on the 16th and ZA005 on the 18th.

Also of significance is that ZA102, the first production airplane to fly may fly as early as January 15th and as late as January 24th. This airplane is out on the flightline at Everett. It is around this time that Boeing will be releasing it's 2010 full year financial results so there would be more that will probably be siad about the schedule at that point though everyone is still waiting to hear about the revised delivery schedule from Boeing.

Note that this schedule is still a projected schedule and things can still change given Boeing continued discussions with the FAA.

I hope to learn more very soon.