Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

The First flight of the Boeing 717-200 looks set to slip into late July or August, as the US manufacturer waits for BMW Rolls-Royce to complete testing of modifications to its BR715 engines. Although Boeing hopes that there is sufficient cushion in the flight test programme to maintain the June 1999 certification and delivery target, this may also slip.

Boeing has been forced to delay the first flight of the prototype 717 from the original June 1998 target, following the discovery of compressor blade cracks in the BR715 during high altitude testing. James Phillips, vice-president of the 717 programme, says that the engine manufacturer has identified the problem and is developing a modification to rectify it. "BMW R-R has got to revalidate the modification, and engine testing should be completed in July to allow us to fly the first aircraft by late summer," he says, adding that the aircraft should be flying by the time of the UK Farnborough air show in early September.

"We will not be able to make a final decision on the first flight date until the tests are completed in July," says Phillips. "There are three altitude tests that have to be undertaken, including a check of the compressor blade modification; the blade-off test; and the crosswind test.

"We are still on track for June 1999 delivery to launch customer Air Tran," says Phillips, but he admits that this could slip if there is not sufficient cushioning in the test schedule to cater for the delay.

Meanwhile, Boeing has secured its second customer for the McDonnell Douglas DC-9-derived twinjet, with an order from Germany's Bavaria International Aircraft Leasing for five aircraft. Bavaria, which is based in Munich, will take delivery of its 717s in late 1999 and 2000, for onward lease.

Although Boeing is focusing primarily on the airline model, Phillips says that a corporate model has been studied which would sit below the Next Generation 737 Boeing Business Jet model.

"Equipped with auxiliary fuel tanks, a corporate 717 would be very competitive with the Gulfstream IV," he says.

The first four 717s, including three instrumented test models and the first production aircraft, are in final assembly at Long Beach, with roll out of the first aircraft planned for 10 June.

Source: Flight International