Boeing appears to have shifted gears on its marketing strategy for the 787, breaking with a strictly closed-door policy and giving reporters and investors unprecedented access to the Dreamliner's final assembly centre in Everett, Washington.
Following on from the Everett event, in June journalists will be able to tour more 787 production facilities in Charleston, South Carolina, and Wichita, Kansas.
This new openness follows Boeing's year-long struggles with supply chain and design issues that caused a 15-month delay for first delivery and a two-year slowdown on the production ramp-up.
Some analysts perceived a long-awaited strategic change in marketing philosophy.
"Boeing lost a lot of credibility, not just because of the delays, but because they failed to communicate," says Richard Aboulafia, vice-president analysis at Teal Group. "Being transparent is in itself a great step, partly because they're putting a lot of their faces and names behind their guidance."
Boeing's latest revised schedule calls for a first flight between October and December and first delivery in the third quarter of 2009. The schedule also requires the first 25 aircraft to delivered by the end of 2009, and a slow production ramp-up to 10 aircraft a month by 2010.
"They're kind of playing double or nothing on the credibility game," Aboulafia says. "If the current schedule works, they gain much of it back. If it goes badly awry, they lose much of what they had left."
Boeing's immediate focus is completing structural and systems work required to enter the flight test phase. Pat Shanahan, 787 vice-president and general manager, has provided a new level of granularity on Boeing's preparations. Minutes before making a presentation to investors on 21 May, he reported receiving an email from his staff informing him that windshield birdstrike testing had been completed earlier that morning. Ten per cent of the programme's structural test remains unfinished, he added.
"The results so far really have exceed our expectations. You would expect to find anomalies and that has not been the case."
The 787 systems package is also progressing towards flight-ready status. Shanahan reported two major items that remain undelivered: the Hamilton Sundstrand power supply unit and the Sagem electric brake actuator controller.
Boeing had previously acknowledged that the twinjet has a 1-2% weight problem, and this remains at least partially unresolved, says Shanahan: "Weight is still a little bit over." Boeing is planning to integrate a first batch of weight reduction initiatives in line 7 and "most of that is out in the wings", he says.
A second major batch of incremental improvements is scheduled for line 20, and more will continue to be designed into the aircraft throughout the development cycle.
Source: Flight International