July 2009 Archives

Ribbon in the sky

We’ve talked here before about Boeing’s progress in meeting environmental challenges. Some of the exciting developments have been around the ASPIRE or “perfect” flights, as well as “tailored arrivals” testing going on over the past year or so.

Now we can share a little more about one of the latest initiatives in air traffic management.

Recently, pilots on Qantas flight 738 were the first in the world to use a satellite-based global positioning system (GPS) exclusively for a more efficient descent, approach and landing into Sydney, Australia.

Appearing in the satellite imagery below as a green “ribbon in the sky,” the GPS-guided procedure saves up to 140 kg of fuel and 440 kg of C02 as compared to the red track used most often. Qantas estimates a conservative yearly savings of 1.4 million kg of fuel and 4.4 million kg of C02 for its 737 fleet, based on 10,000 approaches per year into Sydney.


The green “ribbon in the sky” approach and landing into Sydney. The GPS-guided procedure is more efficient than the typical track used (red).

The Qantas pilots used complementary technologies called required navigation performance and GPS landing system to fly a Next-Generation 737-800 along its shorter, quieter track.

These technologies and others are part of a concept Boeing calls performance-based navigation. It’s a framework for using the capabilities of the airplane to more precisely guide it and monitor its performance. Benefits of the concept include enhanced safety, and increased air-traffic capacity, efficiency and access into challenged airports.

Boeing has helped to shape the evolving performance-based navigation standards through close and ongoing involvement with regulators, industry groups and airlines. And for the past 10 years, our Jeppesen subsidiary has helped airports and operators around the world implement fuel-, emission- and noise-reducing technologies such as required navigation performance.

We’ve worked directly with many airlines to design precise routes and procedures in locations with challenging terrain and weather conditions such as those in Juneau, Alaska (below) and Lijiang Airport in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in China.


Boeing and Alaska Airlines developed RNP procedures into Juneau, Alaska’s airport in 1995.

Speaking of Alaska, Seattle-based Alaska Airlines continues to work on its approaches using these tools. A partnership between Alaska Airlines, Boeing, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and the Port of Seattle, known as Greener Skies, aims to shorten flight paths into Sea-Tac Airport to provide environmental benefits. Alaska’s Next-Generation 737 fleet is 100 percent RNP-equipped and its pilots are 100 percent trained.

Lately, the Next-Generation 737 has led the way in evolving performance-based navigation. Future advancements will come with the 787 and 747-8 as well.

I’m all for shorter, more efficient flights, but I still like that romantic notion that a star will guide you.

Boeing Charleston

Boeing has completed the acquisition of the business and operations conducted by Vought in South Carolina, as part of the agreement announced earlier this month.

Boeing Completes Acquisition of Vought Operations in South Carolina

FBJ - the movie

Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about 747-8 final body join - now in a handy 2-minute movie. Well, maybe not everything, but it’s a great video.

Take a look.


The first 747-8 Freighter is looking like a complete airplane now. Click on the image above to watch the progress.

As you can see in the video, last week we installed the horizontal stabilizers and vertical fin onto the first 747-8 Freighter in the final body join position.


A great view of the 747-8’s impressive vertical fin.

Next step: landing gear.

White and blue

A couple of things to reflect upon today. First, we’ve unveiled the special new livery for some of our 787 flight test airplanes.

Second, I have some thoughts about yesterday’s Boeing earnings report.


The 5th flight test Dreamliner, ZA005, features a modified white livery with blue accents - incorporating some of the elements from the distinctive colors and visual elements seen on the first 787.

Airplane #5 rolled out of an Everett paint hangar on Monday. It bears a simplified paint scheme that you can also expect to see when we roll out airplanes 3, 4 and 6. Airplane #2 has the livery of launch customer ANA.

The simpler livery saves time and expense compared with the full Boeing livery, and will stay on these airplanes until the flight test program is completed and the airplanes are refurbished and delivered to customers.


As you can see, ZA005’s two GEnx engines have been temporarily removed. They’ve been returned to GE for some planned minor improvements.

Now, to Boeing’s second quarter 2009 results. As is often the case, what you make of the report may depend on where you sit.

From a results perspective, it was a good quarter. Company revenue rose 1% to $17.2 billion, and earnings per share rose 22% to $1.41. On the Commercial Airplanes side, our revenues for the quarter were down 2%. That was due to slightly lower airplane deliveries and a lower volume in services.

BCA’s contractual backlog remains a healthy $257 billion and we remain on track to deliver between 480 and 485 airplanes this year, despite ongoing market pressures.

Having said that, I’m sure a number of people were anticipating - and have speculated - that we would have issued a new 787 schedule. They were probably a bit disappointed.

Simply put, we’re not ready to provide a new schedule. We’re still assessing the implications (schedule and financial) of the previously reported need to reinforce the area within the side-of-body section of the Dreamliner.

What we can say is that we’re making progress and have identified a technical solution. As we heard, from an engineering standpoint, the fix design is straightforward, involving a relatively small number of parts. We’re evaluating ways to implement it, and once we complete this assessment an aircraft modification and testing plan will follow. At that point we can assess the impact to flight test and production, with the new schedule expected later this quarter.

We also learned of some further progress in the 787 program beyond what we’ve reported here in the blog. Airplanes #3 and #4 have completed “power on.” And we’re in the process of assembling Airplane #7, the first production 787.

To close out the discussion of the 787 I want to recall the words our CEO Jim McNerney used in the investor and media call on Wednesday:

“Through all of our experience on this program to date, it’s important to remember that we are doing something here that has never been done before. The innovation and technology applied to this program is unprecedented in scope and in the impact it will have on commercial aviation. And the fundamental design of the airplane is sound.”

As we’ve said here before, these are challenging times and will remain so for some time. But we have a large backlog, and a solid foundation, with strong products and services. Boeing is doing what’s necessary within the challenges of the current economy. As Jim said, our intention is not just to survive these times, but use them as the impetus to accelerate the changes we need to better compete in the marketplace.

2Q 2009 results

Boeing Reports Second-Quarter Financial Results

All together now

We’re getting our first real look at the size and scope of the 747-8 Freighter - “all together” now that we’ve reached the milestone of “final body join.”

This is a big moment for the program, and the culmination of a lot of work by our mechanics and engineers. After the rollout of the last 747-400 in May, now we’re back in business, so to speak, building the new 747-8.


Early Monday morning in the factory in Everett, mechanics loaded the forward and aft sections of the fuselage into the final body join position. Together with the center and wing sections, it’s looking like a real airplane.

Final body join takes place in several steps. The three large sections are pulled together in special tooling, and then mechanics adjust the airplane and align the parts, before drilling the pieces together.


With final body join, now the team is getting the 747-8 Freighter ready for integrated functional and flight testing.

At about 250 feet (76.3 m) long, the 747-8 is 18 feet, 4 inches (5.6 m) longer the 747-400. That length means the -8 can handle 16% more freight. It’s the largest, longest commercial jet airplane Boeing has ever assembled.

“Bigger and better,” as the team says.

First flight for the 747-8 Freighter is scheduled for the fourth quarter.

Fly me to the moon

It’s a bit hard to believe, but Monday marks 40 years (40 years!) since we first walked on the moon. “The Eagle has landed.” That was July 20, 1969.


Apollo 11 is a bit off the Commercial Airplanes topic, however it was a significant milestone not only for the world, but for Boeing.

So I wanted to share a little history with you with the help of some material from our archives and Web site.

I was just a young school kid then, but I remember it very well - watching the moon walk on our black and white TV. Little did I know that my career would take me to the company that built many of the major components that put Apollo 11 on the moon.

Boeing, and companies that would later join Boeing, had a hand in the mission to the moon dating back to President Kennedy’s initial vision in 1961 of landing a man on the moon by the end of the ‘60s.


Click on the image above to watch Boeing’s video tribute to Apollo 11.

Boeing spacecraft did a lot of the early “ground work” before the manned mission to the moon. Starting in 1966, five Boeing-built Lunar Orbiters mapped 99% of the moon’s surface.

Other unmanned spacecraft known as Surveyor, built by Hughes (now Boeing Satellite Systems), landed on the moon and transmitted close up and long range photos from the surface. We didn’t know what to expect on the moon when men landed. These missions helped us prepare for Apollo.

McDonnell Aircraft led the way in manned space flight, building the Mercury and Gemini spacecraft that came before Apollo.


A Boeing team, at Cape Canaveral, Florida monitored preparations for the Apollo missions around the clock.

With the exception of the Lunar Module, which was built by Grumman, all of the major parts of the actual Apollo spacecraft and rockets would be developed and built by Boeing or companies that would later join to form today’s Boeing.

For example, Boeing assembled the gigantic first stage booster of the Saturn V rocket at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans. Parts for the booster were shipped there from Boeing’s Wichita plant.


The massive Saturn V in assembly at NASA’s Michoud facility.

A lot of the other work on Apollo centered on facilities Southern California where North American Aviation assembled the command and service modules at Downey, as well as the second stage of the Saturn rocket at Seal Beach. North American’s Rocketdyne division worked on the Saturn engines at Canoga Park, and Douglas manufactured the third Saturn stage at Huntington Beach.


Boeing heritage company, North American Aviation, assembled the Command and Service modules in Southern California.

During the early development of Apollo, Boeing dedicated about 2,000 top managers and engineers to work with NASA and its contractors to certify the Apollo spacecraft and launch vehicle for flight. According to Boeing historian Mike Lombardi, this put quite a drain on company resources at a very busy time in our history.

In the 1960s we were developing the Supersonic Transport, while at the same time planning and kicking off the 747 and 737 programs.

As Lombardi says in a more detailed history of Boeing and Apollo on our Web site, this was a huge project, overshadowed only by our efforts during World War II:

“It was one of the greatest achievements in human history. Apollo taught us that if you dream something and you’ve got enough people with the desire, talent, and can-do attitude, you can make it happen. That’s what Apollo was all about, and I think that’s what Boeing is all about. Boeing can take a dream or idea and make it a reality.”


Apollo 15, 16, and 17 astronauts drove around the moon’s surface in the lunar rover, built by Boeing in Kent, Washington. (NASA photo)

So, what’s next? Well, Boeing is working with NASA to finish work on the International Space Station and helping develop the next generation of manned spacecraft.

Boeing remains one of NASA’s largest contractors and will build the upper stage and avionics for the Ares 1 crew launch vehicle, which is planned to take astronauts back to the moon in the next decade or so. Beyond that we hope to be involved in future missions to Mars. Production of the Ares I rocket upper stage will mark Boeing’s return to NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility – same place we built the Saturn V first stage.

By the way, there are a lot of resources out there to learn more about Apollo. The ABC-TV station in Houston has posted an 8-part series called Moon, Mars and Beyond in honor of the anniversary. And the National Air and Space Museum has a gallery of material. Here are some great technical diagrams. In this month’s Boeing Frontiers online you can take a look back to 40 years ago.


Apollo 11 on the launch pad.

The U.S. cable-TV station, the History Channel will be featuring the debut of a Boeing-sponsored broadcast called “Moonshot.” It’s an original docu-drama using both NASA footage and character reenactments to tell the story of the moon mission, including Boeing’s involvement in the construction of the Saturn V. “Moonshot” will air July 20 at 9 p.m. Eastern time and on July 21 at 1 a.m. Eastern time.

There’s also a very cool “live” re-broadcast of the entire mission you can experience here.


Man on the moon.

Finally, bringing it all down to earth, our Boeing Space Exploration division employees in Houston will be celebrating in style on Monday. In other words, they’ll be dining on moon pies during the day. And during the week the Boeing cafeteria in Houston will be serving menu items from 1969.

Out of this world, huh?

Three wings

The wings for all three 747-8 Freighter flight test airplanes are now in the final assembly bay in Everett.


A unique view from the 747 factory. In the foreground is the wing and center section for the first flight test 747-8 Freighter.

The new wing design incorporates the latest aerodynamic technologies - which means the 747-8 will be able to fly farther and more efficiently. The advanced airfoil provides improved overall performance and provides greater fuel capacity.

Off to the right in the photo above you can see the aft fuselage for the first 747-8. It’s in systems installation and preparing for final body join. The aft fuselage is about 5 feet (1.5 m) longer than the equivalent section on the 747-400.

Most of the “stretch” of the -8 is contained in the the 89-foot-2-inch (27.2 m) forward fuselage. That section is 13 feet 4 inches (4.1 m) longer than the 747-400 forward fuselage. Overall the 747-8 is 18 feet 4 inches (5.6 m) longer than the -400.

Right down the line

Those of you who have children know what a proud moment it is when your toddler takes those first steps.

That’s kind of what it was like for us Tuesday morning when the 787 Dreamliner took its first “steps” under its own power.


ZA001 conducting low-speed taxi testing at Paine Field.

So much of what we do on a new airplane program is measured by achievements that are a lot less visible and tangible. There are engineering releases, laboratory tests, supplier agreements and meetings and more meetings. So it’s really thrilling to be able to demonstrate the kind of progress in evidence during the low-speed taxi tests on ZA001.


Chief pilot Mike Carriker (left), and Mike Sinnett, V.P. and chief engineer for 787 systems, confer in between the first and second rounds of taxi testing.

This testing, like all of the others so far, was conducted very methodically. We worked through the low-speed elements, with each pass down the runway getting a little faster.

We started with a 15 knot (less than 20 mph) run, then 30 knots and 60 knots - until we eventually got to just over 100 knots (115 mph). Taxi speed for a typical take off reaches 150 knots or 173 miles per hour. We’ll get up to that speed when we do our high-speed taxi test closer to the time of first flight.


Thrust reversers in action in a scene from our video of the ZA001 low-speed taxi tests. Click on the image to watch it..

Our 787 test pilots Mike Carriker and Randy Neville got their first chance to test the airplane’s steering. I imagine it was a bit like the first test drive of a new car for them as the 787 headed right down the line during the first southbound taxi on Runway 16R at Paine Field.

Well, maybe not exactly like an automobile test drive, since you don’t typically have in the car with you a dozen flight engineers!


Part of the testing involved slamming on the brakes hard at each new speed level to make sure they work like we want. We did a rejected takeoff (RTO) that generated some smoke from the brakes. The pilots also deployed thrust reversers to slow the airplane. It all went as we expected.

ZA001 is now back in Stall 105 on the Everett flight line. Having learned to walk, we’ll see how she runs, later in the flight test process.

Acquiring Vought in South Carolina

We’ve been getting a lot of inquiries today - understandably - about our announcement this morning that Boeing is going to acquire the Vought operations in South Carolina. This is the facility where fabrication and assembly of structures, as well as systems installation, takes place for the aft fuselage sections of the 787 Dreamliner.

This acquisition will strengthen the 787 program. We’ll be integrating Vought’s talented employees into Boeing, and we’ll be able to accelerate our productivity and efficiency improvements throughout the 787 supply chain as we move toward production ramp-up.


Boeing has agreed to acquire the business and operations conducted by Vought Aircraft Industries in South Carolina.

One of the questions we’re getting asked around this announcement is: Does this move mean we’re changing our thinking about the global strategy for building the 787 Dreamliner? The answer is no. We remain committed to our business model. This approach has resulted in the introduction of a jetliner that has sold more at this stage than any other airplane in history.

We’ve acknowledged some lessons learned in getting the program up and running, and yes, we’re re-drawing some lines and adjusting where necessary. It’s part of a process of bringing the most value to our customers, our shareholders and our employees.

The other big question we’re hearing is: Does this mean Boeing is going to locate a second 787 assembly line at this plant? The answer is that our main priorities on the program right now are to work through the issues regarding the recently announced postponement and to implement the flight test program. After that, we will address the move toward production ramp up. Contrary to speculation, no decisions have been made about a second line.

Final gauntlet completed

Just before the start of the long holiday weekend here in the U.S., the 787 team completed the ‘round-the-clock final gauntlet testing on ZA001.

On the evening of July 2, we wrapped up 18 hours of simulated flying on our first flight test airplane.


ZA001 during final gauntlet testing last week in Everett.

This final gauntlet round included a number of scenarios ranging from normal flight to systems failures – a process that puts the airplane through its paces and gets the airplane ready for flight.

Not only that, though, this process puts the Flight Test and Operations team through its paces too. “Flying” all day and night requires a lot of organization, as you can imagine. There are a number of shift changes and the handoffs have to be seamless.

In gauntlet, our flight test engineers, at work stations inside the airplane, monitor the 787’s behavior. The data is recorded and reviewed after the testing.

We’re still going through the data, but we did discover a few things during final gauntlet, most of which we resolved during the testing.

As we’ve said before, this is all part of the process, and why we do testing in the first place.

Feels like the first time

We’ve mentioned that testing and production is continuing on the flight test Dreamliners and other airplanes in assembly.

Wednesday, on the flight line in Everett we saw (and heard) evidence of that as we completed engine runs for ZA002, the second flight test 787.


Engine runs underway on ZA002.


For the sights - and sounds - of ZA002’s first engine runs, click above to view a short video.

Yesterday’s tests began at around 9 a.m. with two dry runs - the first one without fuel and the second with fuel. After an inspection, early in the afternoon the engines were powered up for real.


A couple of photos that really capture the 787 engines in action.

As was the case when we ran the engines for ZA001, we started them up and operated the engines at various power settings to verify that all of the systems are performing as we expect.

The program tells me that tests on ZA002 are going well.


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