Boeing's 787 Dreamliner program has had five first flight dates set, but a timeline for key program milestones has now emerged that outlines a grueling testing gauntlet to first flight in late April, sources tell FlightBlogger.
Starting on the evening of January 2nd, Dreamliner One will depart its home in Building 40-26 and make the short trip to an open slot on the 767 line in Building 40-24. ZA001 will occupy the spot currently held by ZY998, the fatigue airframe, which will be moved to the flight line prior to the start of fatigue testing.
ZA001 has been back on its own three legs since December 9 when the right engine was reinstalled, followed by the left engine the following day. The recently mounted twin Rolls-Royce Trent 1000s are new-build engines, not the ones originally re-hung earlier this year, having come off the line in September 2008.
As 2008 closes, Boeing has completed the incorporation of the center wing box and tank modifications, which set back the program significantly earlier this year. The modifications were conducted concurrently with the extensive fastener replacement operation.
ZA001 is expected to spend about a month inside 40-24 wrapping up final assembly operations and fastener fixes that have dominated the work on the aircraft recently.
Dreamliner One will undergo three gauntlet test phases that will eventually culminate in first flight by late April.
During the factory gauntlet, expected to begin in early February, the fight-test team will examine the onboard systems to verify their performance is as expected.
An industry source familiar with preparations for Dreamliner One's first flight says that Boeing has committed additional manpower resources to software suppliers to meet the new springtime schedule.
Following the factory gauntlet, ZA001 will undergo its aqueous wash in mid-February to clean the fuel tanks to remove contaminants like carbon dust and metal shavings, a key indicator of aircraft wing completion.
After the wash is complete four days later, ZA001 will return to the paint shop across the Boeing Freeway to receive a fresh coat of paint.
Around this same time, according to a report by ATW, fastener work on ZA002 will be completed, potentially signaling its readiness for ground vibration testing to validate aero-elastic computer models that will give ZA001 a green-light for its maiden voyage.
By the final week of March, ZA001 should be on the flight line in time for the intermediate gauntlet to begin. The 2nd gauntlet phase will see Dreamliner One's engines started for the first time to provide electrical power to the aircraft. This first engine test will mark the first time a commercial airliner has been started using bleedless engine architecture.
The final gauntlet will see Dreamliner One's systems running for eight days straight for extensive testing prior to moving under its own power for the first time.
Dreamliner Five Paced By Fasteners
With the fourth assembly position vacated in Building 40-26, Dreamliners Two, Three and Four will advance one position opening the body join station for Dreamliner Five. Only the three major fuselage structural sections are yet to be delivered for Dreamliner Five. The aft fuselage will likely be delivered to Everett from Vought during the first half of January.
Vought has been operating with a skeleton crew after it largely shutdown in November. Work at the Charleston, SC facility has focused entirely on preparing the aft fuselages of Dreamliners Five and Six for delivery.
Paced by fastener replacement, the Global Aeronautica integrated center fuselage section, remains in Charleston. In some cases, excessive fastener over sizing has forced the replacement of key titanium parts that need to be installed prior to delivery, says a Charleston-based source familiar with the issue.
As Boeing looks ahead to 2009 and the start of the 787 flight test program, progress on Dreamliners Two and Five are crucial for certification. Dreamliner Two will provide replicability of Dreamliner One's performance data and Dreamliner Five will kick off the certification effort of the General Electric GEnx powered 787s.