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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Comments (27)

Chris C (South Africa):

Congratulations and well done on achieving first taxi-tests!! The super-efficient 787 Dreamliner is certainly a very sleek, sexy and efficient looking airplane, and it’s an absolute thrill to see her taxiing under her own power.

I couldn’t help but wish that the crew continued to advance the thrust levers and rotated that beautiful airplane into the air!! Having met Mike Carriker in person and spoken to him at an airline presentation on the 787, I can only imagine that he’s only but too ecstatic to have taxied the Dreamliner and is yearning to get this incredible airplane into the air.

In light of the recent delay for first-flight due to the necessary structural reinforcements, I came across a very neat paragraph in a book written about the super-efficient 787 Dreamliner that sums up the certification process of the airplane. “In line with safety and dependability, the 787 is also designed for remarkable longevity and, with its composite primary structure, could set the record somewhere in the far-off distant future for years in continuous service.

The certification of the 787 is therefore expected to be one of the most gruelling tests of an aircraft’s structure and systems ever undertaken. The extensive use of composite materials, advanced more-electric systems and new architectures mean the testing would be a step beyond that undertaken by Boeing on any commercial venture before”: Boeing 787 Dreamliner – flying redefined pg142.

Tom (Germany):

Randy, what's going on - what's your truth?

The announcement of the delay of the first flight was published just a week before the promised date!
To remind you, that was 2009-06-30.
Your engineers had be off for a fortnight?
Do you lose another fortnight?
I anticipated that the test team would have finished everything on June 29 2009 (naturally not the first fight and high speed taxi runs etc.)- that was the plan as presented in Paris and in the delay announcement.

Are you preparing the readers for the next delay?
What's going on - what is the truth?

David B.:

Looks great running under her own power! Makes me want to see her in the air even more. C'mon Boeing in regards to the structural issues, "Git er done!!" And please do it in weeks, not months!!

Kinbin (Taipei Taiwan):

Randy is probably in the dark just as we are. Since Randy is not directly in program management, but marketing, he gets 2nd or maybe 3rd line information. Program knows his role and probably filters and sanitizes any info to him. He need to know the leads on the shop floor personally to get the 'raw deal'. If not, he only gets the 'bleached' deal.

Even so, those in the front line program management get information lagged by hours, maybe even days. Elevating the actual condition on the line at an organization such as Boeing takes time.

While they may have a flashy management control room that monitor the line metrics on the screen live, those metrics are aggregated numbers. Any one of those contituents to the numbers could be a show stopper.

That said, Randy ought to still endeavor to get the substantiated raw deal to us. It would be easier on him if he does not need to get prior Boeing PR approval for all his posts.

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

Great video of the 787s first taxi and the only video of the 787 taxing with sound. The 787 is on a roll, congrats to everyone on the team!

Theoodre J Kenfield (Los Angeles, CA):

From a space and aviation enthusiast that has been a life long Boeing fan, congratulations! Inching closer towards first flight. Thank you Randy for the wonderful insight. You successfully convey the blood, sweat, and tears that Boeing and your global partners go through. I'm sure there is a true sense of satisfaction seeing that beautiful aircraft get rolling under its own power despite more work to be had.

Keep up the wonderful work. I can't wait to take a ride!!

John (UK):

If Pollyanna were to write a blog, this would be it...
Hi Randy- why has it taken until now to do the taxi tests- surely these could have happened last week? The cynic in me wonders why the date just happened to be the day before the 2 year anniversary of the rollout- thus generating some 'positive' news on the day rather than the negative commentaries you might have expected?

Maybe I'm being mean- but at the moment nobody at Boeing can even give us a date on which they can tell us the revised date of first flight!

bill:

Looks like she is ready to leap into the sky. Noticing all the test equipment I wondered how many people will be onboard for first flight...

Chuck Hershiser (Everett, WA):

Working next to Paine Field and getting to watch some of the runway activity of the 787, I have been amazed at the quietness of the engines. The difference between the 787 and the 777s is amazing!

Well done, the customers will love this airplane.

Bob M (Everett, WA):

It is good to see all possible testing being accomplished in spite of the delay in actual first flight.

Thor Bostrom (Renton, WA, 737 program):

All I can say is that I am salivating. These are exciting times.

Gareth Richards (Cincinnati, Oh):

Nice buzz-saw noise from the fan there, Rolls!

Roger Freeman (Seattle ):

Randy, the new kid looks great. Always feel that same sense of pride with a new airplane. I do hope we make additional comments on the delay and show the world how we are managing it going forward. Once our "Partner" made the statement to the media, we should have provided additional comment to validate or disprove what was said. It still has our name on the side of the airplane (for now).

Jerry(New York):

Everyone interested in the 787 is wondering what is coming down the pike in terms of information concerning its future fix.

Boeing has thrown up a wall of silence in the past and that wall goes up again.

But there was no wall when announcemenmts were made at the Paris Air Show and Scott Carson gave assurances.

You know how frustrating this has been and how confusing this is to the shareholders. Now the bloggers and the analysts are at it again and Boeings credibility is lowered again.

What and how can you guys get this story over well and with assurances instead of unsteady, inconsistent and reports of failures and delays. It is painful to be a shareholder

Keith Sketchley (Victoria):

Good to see progress after years of work, the march through gauntlets and now taxi sounds good in general.

There will be hiccups, given the nature of development programs and this one in particular - people shouldn't be surprised.

Kevin Keo (Everett, WA, USA):

Boeing has always known to be an innovator and leader in the Flight Industries. Look at us now, we did it again. Yes, we had some set back but it was not for a lack of inspiration nor motivation. It is a part of a learning process for any new program especially for the one of this magnitude.

I’m looking forward to our next accomplishment, First Flight. It will be here and we will inspire the World once again where we turn a Dream into a Reality.

Kevin (Los Angeles, CA):

Maybe I can say this since I am not a shareholder, but an engineer. A technological innovation like the B787 involves many trial-and-errors which result in inevitable delays, some of which takes longer to fix than others.

Recently, I made a trip to Asia during which I flew on B744, B773ER, and B767ER. I am sure that someone making the same trip 20 years from now will most likely find themselves flying on B747-8I, B777, and B787.

Rob (Sin City Nevada):

All I can say is one word, "Quiet"!
I can't imagine the noise generated by the current generation of aircrafts.

In light of current fiancial down turn, maybe an alternative is to renew the fleet by upgrading to current engines and avionics as the life extension strategy.

Similar to program that is under way for the C-5 Galaxy transport.

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

This looks tough; Randy must be having a tough time balancing the style (marketing) and substance (engineering) with all the Chinese Walls. I wonder if the Boeing leaders who flew to Paris were subject to the same need-to-know-basis policy. The company needs to talk to itself, limit the marketing damage. I not sure how you'd do that. What an incredibly difficult birth.

Kudos for these tests - more confirmation that it works.

Dave Kidney (Port of Spain Trinidad):

Looks like a great aircraft and one in the Boeing tradition of making sound planes. Hope the reasons for the delay are genuine and there are not bigger problems with the plane that we don't know about.

Ian Kaye (Livermore, CA):

It seems you're getting no information at all regarding what is the extent of the delay. Airliners.net is saying its an 18-month delay, while other are saying its "only" a 6-month delay.

The first taxi tests should have been something to celebrate, but now its seems skepticism instead takes center stage anytime anything happens. Its sad.

I still believe that the good engineers at Boeing can solve these problems and get the bird in the air with the level of quality and performance the world has come to expect from Boeing products from the 707 on up to the latest 777 leaders.

-------

Hi Ian,

Speculation brings no value to anyone. Some may find it fun or interesting but it's just speculation.

We just need to let our engineering team do their work. Once their work is done and a plan is in place, we'll share it.

Thanks,

Randy Tinseth

Jerry(NYC):

Silence still prevails about the nature of the problem and a solution schedule. There is a press conference scheduled on 22 July for the Quarterly earnings report at which time many questions will be asked.

Perhaps Boeing will make a statement before the Conference day so as to truncate the deluge that would ordinarily follow.

Everybody is waiting anxiously to find out if this is minor hiccup or a larger problem. I know, "in the long run this will seem small", but in the short term it is problematic and could be something that was not anticipated which would cause longer delays and costs.

When Boeing finally gives out some information, we will know which direction this plane is head for.

Chris N:

Dreams really do come true after all.

Brian Waite (Devon, England, United Kingdom):

Saw this beast on my trip to Seattle in May and looking forward to Boeing announcing "another" date for first flight !!

Ashley Palmer(IDS, SoCal) (Edwards AFB CA):

After helping out on this VERY aircraft in late 2007 thru 2008, it sure is nice to see it finally under power.

I wanna see it fly!!! Will there be video of the first flight?

Mary Hoover (Auburn,WA.):

It was a beautiful thing to see.It was exciting to watch. I would say it was like watching your child take their 1st step and being full of pride.Keep up the good work.

The public needs to understand that even though it's 1st flight will be late that when it does fly, it will be GREAT!

Helene (Everett, WA):

Beautiful airplane...purrs like a kitten! I'm a proud Boeing employee who has worked on the 787 Program from the start. We've had to work extremely hard to engineer and manufacture this plane using new tools and technology that no other company has used before.

I live just a mile away from the Boeing plant and when I hear the engines at night going through their testing, or when I see an airplane fly above my house, I get excited because I know that I helped produce those magnificent and beautiful airplanes.

Despite the schedule delays, I'm looking forward to seeing the first flight of the 787 Dreamliner. My office has a direct view of the Paine Field flight line so I can't/won't miss it! And hopefully someday I'll have the opportunity to fly on one myself.

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