According to sources in Everett, internal schedules show the overall assembly calendar for Boeing’s Dreamliner One around three weeks behind the revised schedule, Flightblogger has learned. To make up time, Boeing has shifted significant manpower resources to achieve the aircraft power on milestone by month’s end. Work in Building 40-26 is almost exclusively focused on meeting this target on time.
The slippage can be attributed at least partially to on going part shortages and the ramp up of the over 30,000 part supply chain that drives the 787 Dreamliner program.
Boeing was repeatedly approached for comment but had not responded by press time.
787 Program Manager Pat Shanahan identified power on as a critical goal at Boeing’s December 11th Conference Call update:
“I'm focused on this milestone for two main reasons. First, power on is a significant knowledge point technically because we can then retire risk around the integration of the airplane. And second, our schedule becomes much more predictable once we get the power on because the airplane is finally in the state that our factory was designed for.”
This is the first specifically targeted milestone that Boeing has publicly discussed since its roll out of the first Dreamliner on July 8, 2007.
Despite the three week slippage, Dreamliner One has been advancing steadily towards its power on and first flight. According to those directly familiar with Dreamliner One, significant progress towards this milestone includes the completion of wing leak/seal tests, installation of “extensive electrical and fuel systems on both wings,” as well as continued packing of insulation in the middle and forward sections of the aircraft.
In addition, Dreamliner One recently moved from assembly station three to assembly station four in advance of power on.
With Dreamliner One now at assembly station four, the static airframe, ZY997, can move forward to assembly position three on its own recently installed landing gear. This sets the stage for the static airframe to make the move over to Building 40-23 for testing during the month of January.
The fatigue airframe, ZY998, is now wrapping up its structural wing and body join will be moving ahead to position two around the same time as the static airframe.
With the forward movement of the three airframes in Everett, the body join tooling will be available for Dreamliner Two shortly before power on for Dreamliner One. The majority of major structural assemblies for this second flight test airframe, ZA002, were initially expected for delivery by the close of 2007. The wings and fuselage structures have yet to be delivered to Everett from Nagoya, Wichita and Charleston.
Though somewhat off pace with Dreamliner Two, the parts that have arrived have significantly reduced one of the primary obstacles facing Dreamliner assembly: traveled work. When the horizontal tailplane arrived from Italy around Christmas, it had its systems extensively installed and required very little traveled work in comparison to its predecessor which was delivered in April 2007 for Dreamliner One. Both sections of the horizontal tail are being joined in the rear of the 787 Final Assembly & Delivery line in Building 40-36 in preparation for its installation in the aft fuselage when final assembly gets underway later this month.
It joins the vertical tail which arrived from Frederickson, WA during the first week of December.
Major structural assembly deliveries will begin when the wings arrive in the middle of this month and are expected to be immediately ready for installation of its flight control surfaces and wingtips which are awaiting its arrival. Shortly after the wings arrive for Dreamliner Two, the airframe's three largely stuffed fuselage sections are expected to make the trip to Everett. In addition, the radome and pylons have arrived in Everett in preparation for final assembly.
As the targeted timeframe for power on approaches later this month, delivery of major structures for Dreamliner Three to Everett are scheduled to take place in mid-February. According to those working on the 787 program in Charleston, there remains significant concern about Vought and Global Aeronautica’s ability to assemble and deliver completed center and aft fuselage sections at a pace that not only achieves Boeing’s goal 109 787s delivered by the end of 2009, but ensures assembly of all flight test articles required for an on time certification for entry into service at the close of this year.
“Global Aeronautica does not have the ability to build an airplane in the required amount of time that Boeing needs. The upper management structure isn’t conducive to this pace. There’s no communication between upper management and the floor,” said a source directly familiar with the Charleston, SC operation.
Because of this breakdown between the floor and upper management, there has not been the necessary level of confidence gained in the processes to cut down on the required assembly time, the source said.
“The more you do something the better you get. Does Boeing have the time to wait for that? The answer without blinking an eye is no. Boeing needs to take charge and get people in the habit [of building airplanes].”