PHOENIX -- Boeing tonight announced that the Federal Aviation Administration has granted the 787 an expanded Type Inspection Authorization, marking the official kickoff of the aircraft's certification campaign.
The importance of this milestone cannot be understated. Establishing a final configuration of the aircraft, validated through flutter and ground effects testing, allows Boeing to present a conforming article to regulatory authorities who will now participate in testing over the remainder of certification campaign.
Though, the receipt of TIA comes nearly two months off of Boeing's original targets, which initially aimed to achieve this milestone by mid/late-February. The airframer maintains that the TIA milestone did not prevent test progress, though a handful of important changes in both aircraft hardware and software, while not major, did prove time consuming.
None of this is to suggest that Boeing will miss their 2010 delivery target to ANA, however, the airframer is acutely aware that when a milestone originally pegged to the 25% mark of an 8.5 month plan occurs at the 50% mark, margin is surely getting tight.
In September 2007 before the first program delay was even announced, the 787's flight test program was planned for just five months to meet a May 2008 delivery target. Nearly two years after that assessment, signed off on by the company's senior leadership, Boeing added an additional three months of margin to the flight test program, preserving its 8.5 month plan, but providing a buffer the type of contingencies it is seeing today.
A complete month four flight test update will be posted in the days to come.