Boeing has decoupled the flight test programmes for the 787 and 747-8, allowing the two new aircraft to potentially take to the skies for the first time simultaneously.
The 787 and 747-8 are both now scheduled to have first flight during the fourth quarter, most likely the second half of November or first half of December. To avoid having to slow down one flight test programme to keep another on schedule, Boeing has taken the unprecedented step of entirely separating the two flight test programmes and allocating each with a dedicated set of equipment and resources.
"We have completely decoupled the flight test programme on the 747 from the 787," says 747 programme vice president and general manager Mo Yahyavi. "Each programme [now] has its own allocated resources and support equipment."
He says first flight for both the 787 and 747-8 could "absolutely" occur the same day now that the two aren't sharing flight test resources. But whether that happens purely depends on both aircraft becoming ready for first flight at the same time.
Yahyavi says separating the two flight test programmes has required additional investment as typically all of Boeing's commercial aircraft programmes share flight test resources and equipment. "We've had to do some extra efforts out of the ordinary because we have two major flight test programmes going on. We needed to make sure our equipment was reinforced and our resources reallocated properly to get the job done," he explained during an interview with Flight International at his office adjacent to the 747 assembly line.
Yahyavi says the 747-8 programme on its own now has the resources to fly all three test aircraft before the end of this year. This includes having sufficient test pilots, engineers, data analysts and "supporting team members for operation of the airplane during the flight tests".
"We're ready and go and fly the aircraft," he adds.