787 GEnx certification to slide to 2012

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US Federal Aviation Administration certification of the General Electric GEnx-1B-powered 787 is set to slide to early 2012 due to the lack of availability of a production aircraft to satisfy final regulatory requirements, sources have confirmed.

While Boeing has completed a portion of its extended operations (ETOPS) and functionality and reliability (F&R) testing on a Block 4 GEnx test aircraft ZA005 and ZA006, the FAA mandates a portion of the required 300h F&R campaign to be undertaken on a production aircraft.

Boeing and GE had intended to certify the Block 4 GEnx-powered 787 variant in the fourth quarter 2011.

Boeing declined to comment on the GEnx 787 certification schedule.

The airframer will employ Airplane 35, a GEnx-powered 787 for Air India, as its confirming production article for testing, though the slow process of change incorporation has pushed the aircraft's first flight to the first half of December, sliding the completion of the FAA's Part 25 requirements.

The delay has pushed Air India's first delivery into 2012, after its latest schedule had it being delivered in the fourth quarter of 2011, which was delayed from 2009.

The aircraft is expected to transit from the company's Everett, Washington factory to its flight test base at Boeing Field in Seattle later in December, said programme sources.

ZA005 remains an active test aircraft, conducting flight tests of the GEnx-1B's first performance improvement package (PIP 1), expected to deliver a 1.4% improvement in specific fuel consumption, due to an increase in the number of low pressure turbine (LPT) blades.

The Block 4 GEnx-1B engine configuration received FAA certification in March 2008, and the PIP 1 configuration was certified in August. A second PIP for the GEnx-1B is expected to achieve engine certification next year.

Test aircraft ZA006 is currently having its instrumentation removed in preparation for its coming relocation to Boeing's Global Services & Support facility in San Antonio, Texas for refurbishment.

Boeing has delivered two Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-powered 787s, both to All Nippon Airways and aims to deliver a combined 15 to 20 747-8s and 787 in 2011, two-thirds of which will be 787s.

The slow pace of aircraft change incorporation has continued to put pressure on Boeing's delivery schedule, with its internal planning showing five more deliveries in 2011. However, programme sources cautioned that only one or two 787s for ANA will be ready for delivery before the end of December.