As Boeing moves closer to ultimate load testing on the 787-8 static airframe, the company plans to finalise the configuration of the larger 787-9 in June.

Pat Shanahan, vice president of airplane programmes for Boeing, says that all the internal authorisations to proceed with the ultimate load testing of the wing have been completed and early tests that will eventually build toward ultimate loading of the wing, he adds, began on 8 February.

Along with the data gathered on the more than 150h accumulated during the first two months of 787 flight testing, Boeing has been able to hone its configuration for the larger 787-9.

"A lot of what we're learning on the 787-8 will be incorporated on the 787-9," says Shanahan.

The 62.8m (206ft 1in) long 787-9 is 6.1m longer than its smaller stablemate, the 787-8, while maintaining the same 60.1m (197ft 3in) wingspan and carries 100gal less fuel.

Despite a heavier aircraft, with a similar sized wing and slightly less fuel capacity, Boeing is aiming for greater payload and range for the 787-9 with a MTOW of 247,208kg (545,000lb) and a range of 14,816-15,742km (8,000-8,500nm) with 280 passengers in a three-class configuration.

"That's the beauty of engineering," says Shanahan who adds that Boeing doesn't want to offer an aircraft with less range than the 787-8 after increasing capacity and maintaining a common wingspan.

"Through understanding the performance of the -8 and optimising the configuration" the company has "found a way to get the range and the extra payload," he says.

Though for Boeing, this optimisation of the -9 is also aimed at delivering significant weight reduction to later blockpoint changes, or incremental production upgrades, on the 787-8 which is expected to be over target weight at first delivery.

To combat the increased weight Boeing disclosed an increased MTOW of the baseline 787-8 to 227,900kg (502,500lb) - up 8,400kg from the initially planned 219,500kg starting with aircraft 20 to "help us to meet the expectations of our customers". Boeing has already planned further blockpoint changes to incorporate weight saving initiatives.

The 787-8 is due for certification and delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways in the fourth quarter of 2010, while the 787-9 will first deliver to launch customer Air New Zealand at the end of 2013.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news