December 2010 Archives
Boeing Resumes 787 Flight Testing- Interim solution verified through extensive testing- Schedule assessment expected to conclude in JanuaryEVERETT, Wash., Dec. 23, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Boeing (NYSE: BA) will resume flight test activities on the 787 Dreamliner later today. The company has installed an interim version of updated power distribution system software and conducted a rigorous set of reviews to confirm the flight readiness of ZA004, the first of the six flight test airplanes that will return to flight."Initially, we will resume a series of Boeing tests that remain to be completed in the flight test program. That testing will be followed later by a resumption of certification testing," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of the 787 program. Today's testing will include an intentional deployment of the Ram Air Turbine (RAT), which is a small turbine that is deployed when back-up power is required.Boeing and Hamilton Sundstrand completed testing of the interim software updates earlier this week. Verification of the system included laboratory testing of standalone components, integration testing with other systems, flight simulator testing and ground-based testing on a flight test airplane.In the last several weeks, the company continued ground testing as part of the certification program. Additional ground testing will be done by the company on the production version of the airplane to further verify performance of the changes being made."As we return to flight test and determine the pace of that activity, we remain focused on developing a new program schedule," Fancher added. "We expect to complete our assessment of the program schedule in January."Flight testing of the 787 was suspended last month following an in-flight electrical incident on a test flight in Laredo, Texas.
- Predicable costs at 787's foundation
- Scott Carson's ascent
- Can the 787-9 undo the damage?
- Looking at 17 787's per month
- The revival of the 787-10
- Redrawing the supply chain lines
Read this article later: Complete PDF version
Data obtained by FlightBlogger show Boeing's historic order backlog for the 787 was based partly on steep discounts driven by now-discarded design and manufacturing assumptions. Cost overruns, penalty payments and supply chain changes adopted in the last two years will force Boeing to achieve unprecedented cost-savings for the widebody to turn a profit even after delivering the current 846-aircraft backlog.
With first delivery nearly three years behind schedule, the cost to build each 787 has skyrocketed from its original foundations built upon dramatically lower and more predictable production costs, say company insiders.
In the race to sign up customers between 2004 and 2006, airframe prices averaged just below $76 million, a price that does not include the the $20 to $30 million GENx or Rolls-Royce engines, buyer furnished equipment (BFE) and in-flight entertainment (IFE), according to pricing data.
While Boeing will never disclose the actual prices its mega-backlog of 787s were sold for, Jim Albaugh, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, believes the 787 was sold for far less than it was worth, as acknowledged in a recent interview: "I think we gave away some of the value of this airplane to a lot of our customers."
Though that statement, say customer and company sources, as well as industry analysts, is an understated acknowledgment that hints at how Boeing's 787 backlog was built; stimulated not only by huge future growth in air traffic and precipitously rising fuel prices, but a steady and strategic drop in the price of the aircraft.
Boeing, which did not comment on the actual pricing figures, says it is "constantly evaluating our value proposition in the marketplace. Prices are adjusted based on the value our products provide to our customers as well as our positioning in the competitive environment."
In late 2004, Boeing started employing aggressive sales tactics, according to sources familiar with the pricing discussions, blunting the ambitions of the original Airbus A350, then a significantly upgraded A330. That aggressiveness, led by then sales vice president Scott Carson, with a mandate from then-CEO Harry Stonecipher, then-Commercial Airplanes Chief Alan Mulally and the Boeing board of directors, saw prices slashed on the company's composite jetliner.
In the more than three and a half years since its first 787 began assembly, the prevailing wisdom about Boeing's woes have centered upon moving past manufacturing design issues, completing extensive rework of production airframes, certifying and delivering the first units for revenue service and building a steady industrial ramp up at its Everett and Charleston facilities; all while re-balancing its supply chain as it develops the 787-8's larger successor.
Although each is a formidable task, the pricing data indicates Boeing also must overcome five-year-old pricing decisions on more than 300 787s still in the backlog.
The 2004 through 2006 airframe prices charged to airline customers ranged between $83.5 million and as low as $65.7 million for the 787-8, for one higher volume deal with a blue chip customer. Prices for the larger 787-9 were cut significantly as well, but the sales balance in the early years of the program was weighted heavily toward the smaller -8.
There remains great risk and opportunity to ensure the 787 - the company's fastest selling jetliner - becomes the cash cow Boeing hopes it will become. Few doubt the market success of Boeing's flagship program, though the profitability and margins remain open questions as the recurring production costs, by the company's own admission, lack clarity.
Boeing declined a request for executives currently leading the program, as well as Carson, though the company did comment on a point-by-point basis.
Photo Credit Air Show Fan
The Seattle Times lead its Sunday edition declaring the 787 program "is in even worse shape than it appears." The key points center on the mountain - 140,000 - outstanding jobs on production aircraft sitting on the Everett flight line. The biggest piece of news in the report of a recent meeting with Boeing and the FAA regarding the potential of earning early ETOPS certification (beyond 60 minutes) at the time of first delivery. The concern stems from the November 9 fire and the redundancy of the 787's electrical system.
Additionally, Boeing discovered cracks in the Trent 1000's airfoils and found following the August 2 uncontained failure in Derby, UK that one of the engine's shafts can, under certain conditions, turn too fast. Overall, the Times says the new delay, which will likely be announced this week, will stretch "at least three months, possibly six or more."
Working one Everett assembly bay over, the 777 program will increase its production rate to 8.3 airplanes per month by first quarter of 2013, which will be a new record output for the twin jet, allowing Boeing to build 100 of the mini-jumbos per year.
Also, Boeing is now looking at boosting 737 production as high as 50 per month. Coming changes to the line to accomodate 38 per month in 2013 allow the line to operate as high as 42 per month, so additional Renton and supply chain investment would be be needed. Meanwhile, an Al Jazeera report takes a deep look at quality control inside Boeing's 737 line, the company denies the allegations, but the piece does raise eyebrows.
The 787-10 is back on the table, says Boeing's head of strategy, as a way to challenge the A330-300, which has seen a major sales revival in recent years. The Airbus twin jet boasts a range of 5,850nm, so a further stretch of the 787-9 would likely eclipse the -300's performance.
Shifting a few more assembly bays down, RC001, the first 747-8I, has its GEnx-2B engines hanging on its pylons for the first time. The aircraft reportedy underwent pressurization tests for the first time this past weekend as well.
The weather in Seattle today isn't much different from that of a year ago when Mike Carriker and Randy Neville took ZA001 on its maiden flight. It's a far more somber of an anniversary than Boeing would like it to be with the test fleet grounded after the November 9 fire. ZA002 is back home in Seattle and the fleet is in ground testing, but there remain large questions hanging over this program.
If all had gone to the plan laid out at time of the 787's first flight one year ago, ZA100 would be handed over to All Nippon Airways sometime this week or next. The aircraft would've departed Paine Field with a partially full plane of Boeing and ANA executives and eager media on their way to Haneda Airport in Tokyo, but a year later, that moment has no clear date.
With just under 2,400h under its belt, the 787 has undertaken some 765 flights all over the United States. the UK, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, France and The Netherlands, flying to the North Pole and as far south as Fort Lauderdale, braving high winds, extreme temperatures and an insatiable media.
Soon after ZA001 made its first flight a banner was hung inside Boeing's Everett engineering offices. The banner, in blue and white Dreamliner colors, exclaimed: "Making history isn't easy, but well worth it!"
I'm not sure if the banner is still there today - it wouldn't surprise me if it was - but a year after that first 787 flight, if you're involved in this program around the world in any way, it may be well worth it to be reminded of its message.
Below the fold you'll find links to a year's worth of entries, 143 to be exact, from this page's coverage of the 787 Dreamliner since the first flight window first opened on the 10th of December last year up until last week. Also, spend some time browsing the nearly 900 photos from the past year as well, it will provide a chance to see the 787 at nearly every angle from production to flight test, inside and out.
DUBAI -- Quick note from 777-200ER N787UA. Fitting registration for a 12/15 arrival. Long 14h 5min flight back to DC on UA977 and lots to write when I return. Full Flydubai write-up is coming along with other big items. Looking forward to coming home for a bit. Catch you on the other side.
The Engine 2 was shut down. Part of the damage caused Engines 1 & 4 to go into a 'degraded' mode. The engines were still operating and Engine 3 was the only engine that was operating normally. Basically, dealing with all those things took some time, then the next series of messages were hydraulic problems. We had indications that the green hydraulic system was losing all its fluid. The Airbus A380 carries two and, unlike most conventional aeroplanes, most flying surfaces aren't powered by hydraulics, they have their own electric-hydraulic actuators. There is a green and yellow system and they spilt their duties between things like brakes, undercarriage retraction/extension. With the green system out we had to deploy the nose gear and body gear using the gravity extension system. With the loss of the green system we dealt with that and curiously we had the hydraulic pumps of Engine 4 indicating failed as well. Engine 3, the trusty engine, was the only engine that was producing hydraulics for the aircraft for the yellow system.
The company currently aims to build ten 787s per month by the end of 2013.
DUBAI -- Airbus has yet to decide if the smallest member of the A320 family, the A318, will receive the company's new engine option (neo), though if it does happen, the airframer's corporate jetliner business will drive the decision.
"Clearly the case for the A318 is on the corporate jet side." says Francois Chazelle, vice president Airbus corporate and private aviation.
As a commercial platform, the 110-seat A318, powered with CFM International CFM56-5B or Pratt & Whitney PW6000 engines, has fallen flat in the marketplace, as has its 737-600 competitor, having sold just 60 for airlines.
An additional 23 A318s have been sold as the Elite model of the Airbus Corporate Jetliner family, which now represent all the outstanding orders for the type.
The A318 also competes in the same market as the 110 to 125-seat CS100, the smaller of two CSeries models being developed by Bombardier, which will enter service in 2013.
The A318 remains in a commercial niche today, operating, for example, as an 32-seat all business class operation for British Airways out of London City Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York with a westbound fuel and customs stop in Shannon, Ireland.
With rough technical specifications for an A318neo undefined, it remains unclear whether or not the combination of sharklets and a new engine would be able to fly the westbound mission without the stop.
Bombardier has said it is able to fly the British Airways trans-atlantic mission non-stop with the CS100, fitted with its Pratt & Whitney PW1524G engines.
Airbus announced December 1 it had selected the PW1100G and Leap-X starting with the A320neo in 2016, later extending to the A321 and A319.
DUBAI -- We're now all set up here at MEBA and we had a partial working day here. While the show doesn't officially begin until Tuesday, business aviation news will begin flowing on Monday in earnest. Interestingly enough, this brilliant sunset is the last of my 27th year and I'll be celebrating another successful trip around the Sun on Tuesday. Thanks everyone for making it a wonderful and incredibly memorable year. Onward, indeed.
Back in the sky again for my last trip of 2010. This final swing will take me to Dubai for the Middle Eastern Business Aviation (MEBA) show for the next week. I've got 13h and 3min to try United's new 777 economy with Panasonic AVOD and in-seat power on a direct flight from Dulles on UA976. (reg anyone?) This 777 is one of the first seven newly in the fleet with the new interior. The new layout switches from the original 1995 2-5-2 economy layout to 3-3-3. The tail end of the roughly two-week trip will have an IFE and interiors component to it and I'll have more on that later. For now, it's time to fly. Catch you on the other side.