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


Gianfranco said...

Uresh, it's not exactly a question, but something I don't understand with ETOPS certification...
We are in January, first delivery scheduled in Q3 (probably August or Sept), and ZA102 is going to fly today....
Are not 7 or 8 months enough to get this ETOPS certif ????? (knowing that a 2nd plane will work on it with ZA102).
If you have any explanation, I will take it, because I don't understand....

Uresh said...

The issue is is there enough time but the issue is how much testing does the FAA want Boeing to conduct in order to get the ETOPs certification out of the box. This is a contentious issue between Boeing and the FAA in light of the fire and the Rolls Royce engine failure. Boeing is building in about three months contingency time in case they need to do addiitonal tsting for ETOPS but they still don't know how much testing they have to do. Boeign and the FAA are still trying to hammer that out.

Gianfranco said...

Ok, so one more question : do you know how long does it take to get this certification in "normal" condition ? (I mean if the fire incident and engine failure never happened, how many flights / flights hours are required generally ?) Any idea about it ?

Uresh said...

Not sure on that one unfortunately.

Roy Navon said...

If I remember correctly, ANA plans to use its first planes for domestic routes. Is that true?

If so, how important is it to have ETOPS "right out of the box" as you say?


Uresh said...

For ANA, initally it's probably not that important but the unknown is how long will it take? I don't think Boeing wants to risk trying to get ETOPS certification months after first delivery.