Sunday, March 23, 2014

Mea Culpa....Boeing 787 deliveries looking good for March

Ok so last post I figured that Boeing will not deliver more than 4 787s in March.  Well I'm having a crow dinner as Boeing has delivered 5 this month and looks to possibly deliver 4 to 5 more before the end of the month.

Last week Boeing did deliver three 787s to customers (one for Japan Airlines, one for Qatar, and one for United Airlines).  Now it's looking like Boeing can deliver one to Qatar this week as well as two for ILFC (for Norwegian and Aeromexico), Royal Brunei and possibly Kenya Airways.  The later is to fly to Nairobi around April 4th but it may deliver a few days before that and fly away on April 3rd. 

It does appear that Boeing flight activities are picking up, possibly to verify any wing fixes on the aircraft that needed them.  I do believe that the airplanes are still going to the EMC to finish off travel work but also to conduct the wing inspections and implement the fix if needed.

Meanwhile the ramp in Everett continues to get crowded while the Charleston ramp is starting to see an easing of congestion.  Of the 5 787s delivered this month, 3 were Charleston built 787 and 2 were built in Everett. One aircraft that was built in Everett, ZA230 (LN 25, VT-ANA) for Air India was delivered at Charleston even though it was built in Everett.

Boeing did deliver LN 152, on the 787s that was within the batch with suspected wing issues.  It appears that this aircraft was cleared of the issues after the inspection and was subsequently delivered to Japan Airlines.

In terms of production, It appears that Boeing is continuing on rolling out 10 787s per month.  LN 190 should be the last 787 to enter final assembly this month. Lastly, I do anticipate that ZB197 (LN 146, JA830A) should make its first flight sometime in April and join the 787-9 test flight fleet.  This will be a production standard aircraft with little to no flight test wiring/equipment.

As far as April 787 deliveries's too soon to tell.  We would need to see more B-1 flights and there hasn't been one of those since March 10th...2 weeks ago.

Full 787 List

Current 787 Production List

Delivered 787 List

787 Monthly Delivery Tracking

787 Customer Delivery

787-9 Flight Test Hours

Current 787 Operators


Monday, March 17, 2014

Boeing's March Madness - 787s starting to crowd Everett Ramp as inventory grows

The inventory of completed or almost completed 787s grows at the Boeing flightline in Everett.  So far this month there have been two 787 deliveries, both made from he North Charleston final assembly site though one of the delivered aircraft was an Everett built frame for Air India.

Testing continues to be very slow with only one aircraft going up for a single test flight per day on average.  Obviously Boeing is in the middle of inspection of the shear ties in the wings where cracks may have developed when fasteners were over-tightened with out gap fillers.  Given the dearth of 787 flight activity from Everett, it appears that many of the 787s in the batch that includes L/N 151 to L/N 193  Many of these aircraft have been built or are in final assembly.  The wing crack issues only exacerbated the delays in the 787 production stream bought on by increasing traveled work in the mid-body fuselage from South Carolina.  The increase in traveled work, as you may recall, was caused by the laying off of about 600 experienced contract employees from Charleston coupled with the increase in production of the 787 and the introduction of the 787-9 into the production system.

I don't expect Boeing to deliver more than 2 more 787s this month one to Qatar Airways and one to Japan Airlines.  Thus I expect the inventory of 787s to grow through at least mid April then to decrease thereafter but the only way to figure that out is to watch the flight activity out of both Everett and Charleston.

Full 787 List

Current 787 Production List

Delivered 787 List

787 Monthly Delivery Tracking

787 Customer Delivery

787-9 Flight Test Hours

Current 787 Operators


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

787 testing and deliveries slow in March

On the heels of the revelation of the wing crack on certain 787s and the inspection and repair program that Boeing has implemented, the testing and deliveries of 787s to customers has slowed considerably through the first 10 days of March. This is certainly attributable to the ramp up of inspection of the block of Dreamliners that have been identified (LN 151 to LN 193 inclusive) as possibly having the cracks.  It should be noted that not all of these airplanes may have the cracks as the aircraft has to be inspected for them. 

Reminiscent of the last years grounding as well as the delays to program prior to FAA certification, the Everett ramp is filling up with 787s once again. There 13 production 787s that are out on the Everett flightline.  Boeing continues to build 787s at the same rate of 10/month.

The wing problems already exacerbate the existing issues revolving around the production of the 787 mid-body fuselage section which has been slowed due to the introduction of the higher production rate and the start of 787-9 assembly.  Boeing certainly didn't do themselves any favors when they let go of hundreds of contractors last year.

In terms of production flights, the trend, of late, is that there would be a flight made by 1 or 2 787s a day but this included a 787-8 B-1 flight made by ZA275 (LN 161, SP-LRF) for LOT.  There hasn't been a flight made by airplanes that flew last month as these aircraft are either going through inspections or are having repairs made to them.  Reports in the media say that deliveries would be delayed a few weeks with some reports saying this would be 1 to 2 weeks.

Certainly the repairs shouldn't take that much time as well as any post repair inspections but the large number of aircraft that are potentially affected may make this a longer project than most anticipate.
Boeing has delivered 1 787, ZA230 (LN 25, VT-ANA) to Air India and they could potentially deliver 2-3 787s to Qatar Airways and possibly 1 to United Airlines.  All these aircraft are pre-L/N 151 aircraft and is not subject to the wing inspections.  If they can get their act together they could still deliver 1 to 2 aircraft that are in the lot of 43 aircraft.  Most likely Boeing can deliver a total of 5 to 6 787s this month and try to catch up to deliveries during April and May.  I think they should be back on their regular delivery schedule by June but until then, 787s will continue to stack up on the flightlines at Everett and North Charleston.

Full 787 List

Current 787 Production List

Delivered 787 List

787 Monthly Delivery Tracking

787 Customer Delivery

787-9 Flight Test Hours

Current 787 Operators


Friday, March 7, 2014

Wall Street Journal: Undelivered 787 to be inspected for wing cracks

The Wall Street Journal's Jon Ostrower reported today that a change in the manufacturing process in the Mitsubishi built wings for the 787 may cause hairline cracks to develop.

This is another potential issue in a whole list of issues dating back to 2007 that have plagued the 787.  Jon identified the 787s affected as aircraft LN 151 to LN 193 inclusive.  Boeing said that some of the 43 aircraft have cracks and some do not while others have yet to be inspected.  According to the database that I have compiled, most of the aircraft have been built or are under going final assembly.  Some of the wings that are still in Japan are assigned to the later line numbers.

Line Number Customer
LN151 Hainan Airlines
LN152 Japan Airlines
LN153 ILFC/Norwegian
LN154 China Southern Airlines
LN155 ILFC/Aeromexico
LN156 Royal Brunei Airlines
LN157 Kenya Airways
LN158 Air India
LN159 Japan Airlines
LN160 Air Canada
LN161 LOT Polish Airlines
LN163 ILFC/Aeromexico
LN164 Ethiopian Airlines
LN165 Norwegian
LN166 Royal Brunei Airlines
LN167 Ethiopian Airlines
LN168 Ethiopian Airlines
LN169 Air New Zealand
LN170 Air Canada
LN171 Hainan Airlines
LN172 China Southern Airlines
LN173 British Airways
LN174 Air Canada
LN176 Qatar Airways
LN177 British Airways
LN178 ILFC/Norwegian
LN180 Air India
LN181 United Airlines
LN182 TUI Travel (Arke)
LN183 ILFC/Norwegian
LN184 Kenya Airways
LN186 United Airlines
LN187 British Airways
LN188 Qatar Airways
LN190 ILFC/Thai
LN191 TUI Travel (Thomson)
LN192 Kenya Airways

According to the Journal, Mitsubishi changed the way it manufactured the wings. However this process creates a problem which "stems from fasteners used to connect aluminum shear ties on the wing ribs to the carbon fiber composite wing panel, according to two people familiar with the situation."
"The fasteners were over-tightened without the use of manufacturing fillers, compressing a gap in the structure and in some cases caused hairline cracks of less than an inch. If left unchecked can cause unintended stress on the jet's structure and could lead to further damage. 'We understand the issue, what must be done to correct it, and are completing inspections of potentially affected airplanes. We are addressing affected airplanes as required,' said the Boeing spokesman."

Of the 43 aircraft that are affected, 7 have flown production flights and 18 have completed final assembly. There are a further 14 undergoing final assembly both at Everett and North Charleston.  Another 11 are waiting to enter final assembly.  These 11 all should enter the final assembly process over the next 5 weeks or so.

It is unclear what impact this would have on the delivery schedule but Boeing is saying that deliveries should be unaffected.  Furthermore it is unclear what changes Mitsubishi or Boeing will implement to ensure that these crack don't occur again. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

787 February Production and Delivery Report

With the first 2 months of 2014 officially in the books, the 787 program is starting to show some new signs of life but there are still some dark clouds hanging over the program but the darkest one of all is the continued travel work from Charleston's mid-body fuselage assembly. I still do not expect that the issue will be resolved until next month.

It does appear that Boeing has changed the production system a bit in light of the traveled work.  Instead of sending the aircraft out at regular intervals, regardless of completion, from final assembly to the EMC, Boeing seems to be keeping them in final assembly a bit longer than planned.  The only plausible reason is not only to finish off much if not all the traveled work but also to give more time to the Charleston team assembling the mid-body fuselage sections. I have noticed that Boeing is sending aircraft out of final assembly later compared to when these airplanes were expected out.  Just last night an Ethiopian 787 that I had expected to move out on Feb. 25th was rolled out to the EMC according to Matt Cawby. Even with the 6 day delay there is still more travelled work to be done on this aircraft. United's 1st 787-9 should load today.

Previously, it took Boeing 34 days to complete a 787 on either the main line in 40-26 or the surge line in 40-24. It appears, for now, that the number of days has increased to at least 40 days. We would have to see how long these frames stay at the EMC before being painted.

Additionally, Boeing is spacing out the time it loads a new frame into final assembly.  Previously, Boeing loaded a new air frame every one week into Position 1 on either assembly line in Everett.  Starting with LN 175, the time between loadings had grown to initially 9 and now about 11 days before a new air frame was loaded.

If this trend holds for the rest of March, then Boeing is effectively building 6 787/month out of Everett.  Along with 2 from Charleston, we then could see the total number of aircraft that starts final assembly in March dip to 8/month.  This would be a temporary dip in the rate but something that is not surprising given the trouble in Charleston. However it will allow Charleston time to get the the activities in 88-20 back on track and at rate.

Last month, Boeing delivered 4 787s, three to ANA. There has been a moderate uptick, in the 787 flight activity in the last few days. This includes ferrying Charleston built 787s for painting as well as continued production testing. In fact several Qatar aircraft have finally had their customer flights and appear to be ready for delivery. Kenya Airways 1st 787 is ready for its B-1 flight and I expect Air Canada 1st 787 to be ready for delivery before the end of this month.

This what I am expecting for deliveries in March:

Air India - 1

Qatar Airways - 2

United Airlines - 1

Japan Airlines - 2

ILFC - 2 (1 each to Aeromexico and Norwegian)

Hainan - 1

Royal Brunei - 1

Air Canada - 1

Kenya Airways - 1

This is a total of 12 for March but Boeing May be able to deliver 2 more air frames, one each to Qatar and LOT Polish.

787-9 flight testing continues a pace and I still expect that Boeing will finish all certification flight testing for this variant by May followed by formal FAA certification in June and 1st delivery to Air New Zealand in July. That aircraft is still in final assembly in Everett and should be rolled out sometime this week. ANA's first 787-9, ZB197 (LN 146, JA830A) was rolled out of paint and I expect this aircraft to join the flight test program where it would do functionality and reliability testing. This could start as early as late March but April is more realistic time frame.

I expect the Air New Zealand airframe, ZB003 (LN 169, ZB-NZE) to be transferred over to the EMC where it will finish off travelled work as well as start the change incorporation process where changes mandated by the FAA certification will be made to bring the aircraft up to standard.  Boeing will need to have this aircraft ready in June if it hopes to deliver it in July.