Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh, for the first time, has acknowledged that the 787 will miss its intended performance specifications, though the majority composite jet will still meet the mission requirements of its customers.

"I'll be the first to admit that we're not going to meet the spec, but I think we'll be able to meet what our guarantees are," said Albaugh today at the International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) conference in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Boeing's current spec calls for the aircraft to fly 14,200km to 15,200km (7,650nm to 8,200nm) range at maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 227,930kg (502,500lb) with 242 passengers in a three-class configuration.

Albaugh says "the first airplanes are going to be a little heavy" and the company has engine and airframe performance improvement packages to "clean the airplane up".

He adds: "I feel pretty comfortable that over time we'll be able to get to [14,800km (8,000nm) range]." However, adds Albaugh, "When that date's going to be, I can't tell you."

Originally designed to fly 14,200km to 15,200km with a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 219,540kgs (484,000lbs), the MTOW has creeped up to 227,900kg (502,500lbs) in part to regain the aircraft's payload range performance, starting with Airplane 20.

Mike Bair, who currently heads Boeing's 737 advanced development effort, said in a recent interview that the 787 would achieve "high teens in terms of fuel burn" advantage over the 767 and "high single digits in terms of cash operating costs," but adds: "It would've been higher, but we decided to trade some of that currency for payload range, so to give the airlines an opportunity to work the revenue side of the equation."

Both 787 engine suppliers Rolls-Royce and General Electric are working on improvement packages for their respective engines. Rolls-Royce will introduce its 'Package B' model, expected to bring the Trent 1000 engine within 1% of originally planned specification, while GE is currently flight testing its Product Improvement Package (PIP1) on its 747-100 test bed.

The Rolls-Royce 'Package B' Trent 1000 includes a revisedsix-stage low pressure turbine (LPT) design, high-aspect-ratio blades, relocation of the intermediate-pressure (IP) compressor bleed offtake ports and a fan outlet guide vanes with improved aerodynamics. Boeing says the Package B configuration has not yet flown on any of the 787 test aircraft.

Further, industry officials suggest that Rolls-Royce is working on a 'Package C' engine intended to further improve engine performance on the larger 787-9.

GE says PIP1, which includes a revised low pressure turbine (LPT), will be test flown on ZA005 mid-year. The revision increases the blade, vane and nozzle count after a weight-saving reduction in these areas reduced performance. PIP1 is believed to bring the GEnx-1B engine within 1% of planned specification, say industry officials.

A second PIP2, which features aerodynamic improvements to the high pressure compressor (HPC), has been in ground testing since December and GE expects to flight test the changes in the second half of 2011.Certification of these changes is likely in the first quarter of 2012, followed by entry into service in late 2012, says GE.

Japan's All Nippon Airways anticipates taking delivery of the first 787 in the third quarter of 2011.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news