Like many of you, I woke up a bit earlier than usual yesterday. It was a big day at the house - the first day of the school year.
So my normal routine got a bit changed - I managed to make some coffee, and I did let the dogs out, but I didn’t get around to feeding them. Breakfast would have to wait because I also had to head to work early to catch the 787 program update call.
It was our regular quarterly call for media and investors. But this one held more than the usual anticipation. There’s been a lot of attention to when this airplane is going to fly, and how it’s being assembled – more than any airplane I can remember.
787 first flight is now targeted for mid-November to mid-December.
And as many had expected, BCA president and CEO Scott Carson and 787 Program general manager Mike Bair confirmed that we’re changing our first flight schedule.
We’re now targeting first flight for somewhere in the mid-November to mid-December timeframe.
We’ve always said that building new airplanes is a difficult, complex task. The 787 is no exception. But even with this change in schedule, the team will implement contingency plans, and we still think we’ll meet our first delivery in May 2008.
You may have figured out that this gives us a window of about six months for flight test. Very true. It’s an aggressive plan. And it includes all the risks you’d see in a typical flight test program. But barring any major new discoveries we think we have an achievable plan for flight certification.
Once the first airplane is in the air, we’ll be approaching 787 flight test as an around-the-clock operation – that means 24/7. The program will include 34 pilots and six aircraft. They’ll be conducting 3,100 hours of flight testing and 3,700 hours of ground testing.
Extensive simulation and testing we’ve already done on the ground and in the air (in the case of the avionics and flight controls) gives us a significant head start.
But getting back to the announcement – what happened to the schedule?
Well, the two main issues are the documentation and execution of “traveled” assembly work that has moved into Everett on Airplane #1, and finishing the integration of our flight control system software. We’re working hard on these issues and we’re making good progress.
After the 787 rollout in July, we did remove major pieces of the airplane because primary and secondary structure was not complete. We also needed to replace temporary fasteners. That was part of the plan all along. Now we’re moving forward on completing the assemblies, and installing the wiring and systems. I can tell you that the installations we’ve completed have gone well and the design tools have done what we expected and more.
In the meantime, the market response to the Dreamliner continues to reinforce our view that this is the right airplane for the right time. This week, Aeroflot shareholders approved the purchase of 22 new 787 Dreamliners, putting the program over 700 orders.
Of course, customers determine when to announce orders, so there’s no truth to the notion that this is all a scheme to arrange for a total of 787 orders by the time of first flight!
But in all seriousness, we’re facing our challenges head on. We have an experienced team that understands the issues and knows how to complete a complex airplane program.
Our goal remains the same – to meet the commitments we’ve made to our customers, and to deliver airplanes on time that perform to their expectations over the life of the program. And as always, we’ll keep the lines of communication open as we go forward.
Oh, and don’t worry, the dogs finally got their breakfast.