787 first delivery delayed to mid-Q1 2011

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Boeing has confirmed a fresh delay to its 787 programme, citing compounded issues with workmanship problems with the aircraft's Alenia Aeronautica-built horizontal stabilizer and its Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines.

The first delivery of its 787 Dreamliner to launch customer All Nippon Airways (ANA) has now slipped to the middle of the first quarter of 2011, from the originally forecasted fourth quarter 2010.

"The delivery date revision follows an assessment of the availability of an engine needed for the final phases of flight test this fall," says Boeing.

While the airframer did not explicitly address the uncontained 2 August failure of a 'Package A' Trent 1000 in its announcement, the company says "the delivery date revision follows an assessment of the availability of an engine needed for the final phases of flight test this fall", indicating 'Package B' powerplants may be substituted for the early build Trent 1000s for ANA.

 
 © Jon Ostrower/Flightglobal

With a lack of specifics from Boeing and Rolls-Royce, the future of the Package A engine remains uncertain. However, indications exist that a modification for the failed part will be fed back into the early production engines with the fall testing related to flying Airplane Nine - the first production 787 to fly - on limited engineering tests, instead of Package B certification testing on test aircraft four.

Boeing's 787 flight test programme planned to run "another small test programme, within a flight test programme" for the Package B engines, which are slated to be test flown on the company's fourth test aircraft later this year. ZA004 is currently powered by twin Package A engines.

The Package B engines include a revised six-stage low pressure turbine (LPT) design, high-aspect-ratio blades, relocation of the intermediate-pressure (IP) compressor bleed offtake ports and fan outlet guide vanes with improved aerodynamics. The revisions will also bring fuel consumption of the powerplant within 1% of the original specification.

Rolls-Royce first confirmed on 16 August that a failure had occurred, saying at the time: "We do not anticipate any impact on the programme". Boeing, however, then took a more cautious approach to the issue, saying that no impact on flight testing has been incurred "to date".

Boeing now says it is working with Rolls-Royce to "expedite engine availability" and adds that despite the slip in first delivery, "flight testing across the test fleet continues as planned".

The airframer cautioned in June that first delivery could slip out of 2010 and "a few weeks" into 2011 after sluggish flight test instrumentation change-out and horizontal stabiliser inspections and rework slowed the flight test programme.

The Boeing 787 was originally set to enter service in May 2008.