Boeing is days away from being granted General Electric GEnx-1B engine-airframe certification for its 787, a milestone expected to be paired with 330min extended operations (ETOPS) approval, says the programme's top engineer.

"It's here, it's finished," says Mike Sinnett, 787 chief project engineer of the 330min ETOPS requirements, "The certification work is done. So now it's just rolling it through the process with the GE [certification] coming in the next couple of days, [Japan Airlines] will be able to seek operational approval and we'll be done."

Japan Airlines is expected to take delivery of its first 787s later this month and will serve as the launch customer for the GEnx-1B engine inaugurating US service with the type in April connecting Tokyo-Narita and Boston's Logan International airports.

The route will not require a 330min ETOPS certification, though the aircraft will be certified to fly routes that require a diversion airport between 3h and 5h 30min flying time.

GE says its GEnx-1B engine pairing certification with 787 will include both its baseline Block 4 and Performance Improvement Package (PIP1) configurations, the latter of which is 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 first delivery to JAL will be fitted with PIP1 configuration engines, says GE.

Airplane 35, a 787 for Air India, completed flying for GEnx-1B certification testing on 23 February.

United Airlines, which takes delivery of six 787s in 2012, is expected to be the first carrier to require the 330min requirement for creating the most optimal routing between its Houston, Texas hub and Auckland, New Zealand.

While the 180min approval for Trent 1000-powered 787s was granted ahead of its October 2011 service entry, final approvals for the 330min certification was split into a second block of requirements with a "software adjustment" necessary to meet US Federal Aviation Administration regulatory criteria.

The now-complete airframe tests cleared the way for airframe approvals beyond the initial 180min airframe certification which hinged on completion of a software upgrade to change the low fuel quantity indication on the 787's flight deck.

Engine approvals were granted to Rolls-Royce for 330min ETOPS certification for its Trent 1000 in May 2011 and General Electric followed on the baseline Block 4 GEnx-1B in December, and again on 8 March for its PIP1 configuration.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news