Boeing’s first 787, ZA001 to be decommissioned Thursday
By Jon Ostrower on November 30, 2011 in Uncategorised
Thursday, December 1, ZA001 will ferry to Palmdale, California.
It will be the aircraft’s last flight for a while, as the first 787 will be decommissioned as a test aircraft, Boeing confirms.
Its Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines will be removed and it will remain in long-term storage before finding its way to a permanent spot in a museum, likely not far from the first 757, 747 and 737.
It’s a coincidental bookend of sorts, its ferry coming a day after Boeing and its largest union reached a landmark deal to secure 737 Max production in Renton. Much of the program’s life was defined in-part by the contentiousness between labor and management.
ZA001 may also be the single most expensive test asset in commercial aviation history, with the aircraft’s estimated cost exceeding $4 billion, say company sources.
Its flying life as a globe-trotting test aircraft will conclude just 15 days shy of its second birthday as a flying machine and its extended gestation in Everett filled the two and a half years that preceded. It was a strange way to come into the world for this first carbon fiber jetliner, wound from looms, rather than forged from metal.
Those who assembled it felt it almost maddening at times, rife with frustration and the stress of the push to speed it towards flight test.
The machinists and engineers could make a washing machine fly if they had to, and there were days that making ZA001 into a living, breathing aircraft seemed to feel that way.
Then-787 chief systems engineer Mike Sinnett held his blackberry up to ZA001′s cooling fans, running for the first time in June 2008, on the other end was David Hess, then-Hamilton Sundstrand CEO, whose electrical power system had brought the aircraft to life.
When it came time for its first factory gauntlet in April 2009, ZA001 proved incredibly hard to fool, stubbornly refusing to raise its landing gear. A flip of the gear handle would not suffice, its deeply integrated computer systems had to be tricked into believing it was flying.
“Hot diggity dang, TM, it works!” were the words from then-787 Chief Pilot Mike Carriker at the controls of ZA001 on December 15, 2009 as the jet climbed away from Paine Field for the first time.
Assembled, disassembled, re-assembled and disassembled and reassembled a few more times after that, the amount of changes made to its structure and fasteners and the lack of initial documentation made its future as a member of All Nippon”s fleet – any fleet – a non-starter.
It officially left Boeing’s production inventory in March 2009, though the official disclosure, along with a $2.5 billion charge to its earnings along with ZA002 and ZA003, shifted the first three 787s to research and development duty in August of that same year.
ZA002 lives on as a demonstration aircraft for Boeing Charleston, while ZA003 will take the lead on the Dream Tour over the next half year.
Though its service was brief in comparison to the company’s other first models in its near 100-year history, ZA001′s impact will be felt for decades, having laid the foundation for the company’s technological and financial future.