Wake up call

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.

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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.

Comments (10)

Saj (London, UK):

Its not realistic to expect that a revolutionary and untested airplane would be devoid of issues not seen on traditional airplanes.

http://fleetbuzz.wordpress.com/2007/09/06/coming-soon-787-first-flight/

The global team will work together to bring the Dreamliner to the skies, the learning curve will assist both partners and airlines about the 787 architecture to ensure a smooth and seamless integration into the worlds airlines operating fleets.

Getting the Dreamliner into the air is a mammoth task -and one that needs to be done correctly. Working to ensure that the 787 Dreamliner fulfils the dreams of tomorrow for the 40-plus customers is paramount - and until such time as delivery dates alter, customer faith in the program will get stronger.

Lest critics forget, this is the best-selling widebody airplane in history. Period.

G (France):

It seems that the bottle neck is the number one. You may opt to just leave the number one aside and catch the number four or five to do the first flight. When "time" ceases to be a critical item, you can then document and refurbish the number one without too much stress.

anand:

Can you comment on weight issue faced by the 787 program?

Chris C (South Africa):

These next few months will no doubt be challenging, strenuous, long, but above all, exciting and rewarding for Boeing! The super-efficient Boeing 787 Dreamliner is the 21st Century Flagship, and is above all, the pinnacle of airborne excellence, Period.

But, if anything is to be said about the next few months as the magnificent 787 is readied for EIS, is that these are going to be glorious times for Boeing to demonstrate its fantastic “Working Together” philosophies! I have every bit of confidence that May 2008 EIS will be met, as well as if any problems surface, then EIS will not be to badly effected. You guys are building a revolutionary airplane, with revolutionary technologies; so any ‘slip’ in EIS will be acceptable to a degree.

I remember that the phenomenal 747-400 also suffered similar ‘delays’ in its early days of rollout…having a six-week delay of the first anticipated first flight. Also, the –400 was hampered by software glitches in its advanced flight deck, as well as having some suppliers delivery parts late. In total, the –400 took to the air three months after rollout, and was delivered one month late – phenomenal achievement considering how the –400 was virtually an all-new 747!! And we all know on how the 747-400 went on to become the undisputed Queen of the Skies to this present day. In closing, the 787 will deliver, and it will more than likely deliver even better economics than predicted!

Eric (Toronto ON Canada):

I am confident that Boeing will meet the delivery schedule next year.

Ed (UK):

What worries me when we are looking at the issues with the dreamliner is that there is still no definitive date for its first flight. If we look back at recent programmes like the 777 in 1994/1995, the gap between the initial 'power on' of the aircraft and first flight was substantially longer than what Boeing are aiming for on the 787. I understand that first flight was originally to take place on Aug 27th, so we are already looking at a 3+ month delay in the programme and lets not forget that the major problems with the Airbus A380 did not emerge until after its first flight. I have every faith in Boeing and as we have seen before, you guys really now how to make great planes, however I'm sceptical that the 787 will be delivered on time.

Buzz (Brazil):

Though I was impressed by Boeing's planning, which had a buffer (just like they tell us to do in college!!!), I really have to agree that it is going to be tight. Actually, many friends from aviation are skeptical (like Ed) about May/08 EIS target.
But... lets wait and see. I wasn't even expecting this "buffer time". What else could come up?

James Baloun (Palo Alto, California):

The right plane at the right time. Seems Airbus thinks so too. The Wall Street Journal is reporting Airbus will go with a composite A350. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

Ted Cook (Mt. Vernon, WA):

The "underpromise and overdeliver" gave Boeing great credibility on the 777-300ER. Note to management, send the rose colored glasses back to Airbus and the mortgage industry.

Tony (Sydney, NSW, Australia):

I give Boeing my full support. They are building a brand new aircraft using new technology and techniques-hats off for doing what others havent done. I cannot wait to get on board a Dreamliner-let it be a QANTAS, Jetstar etc. It will be as exciting as getting my first car.

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