February 2010 Archives

Second flight with a first

I wanted to catch you up on some further flight test developments - namely, that we successfully completed the 2nd test flight of the first 747-8 Freighter earlier in the week.

With Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein and Capt. Tom Imrich at the controls, the flight concluded at Moses Lake - marking the start of the planned transition to remote locations for the 747-8 flight test program.


The 747-8 Freighter makes a turn during first flight on February 8.

This 2nd flight also happened to mark a “first” worth chronicling. Capt. Imrich flew the first GLS approach ever accomplished on a 747 of any type.

GLS (Global positioning Landing System), or more accurately speaking, GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System), uses simple ground based augmentation to fine tune signals from navigation satellites – similar to GPS and other systems.   

GLS approach capability is critical to continued improvements in efficient air traffic management and it represents a great advancement in safety and economy over existing approach types - yet pilots can fly it using the same procedures as a common ILS (Instrument Landing System).

Meantime, from this point on, the 747-8 will be based mainly at Moses Lake and in Palmdale, California. As you might remember, we put this plan in place to ease capacity at Boeing Field. This makes better use of our resources while both the 747-8 and 787 are in simultaneous flight test.

Moses Lake testing will focus on flutter and initial airworthiness. At the conclusion of that portion of testing, the program moves down to Palmdale.

We’ll have 3 airplanes in the 747-8 Freighter flight testing – for a total of about 3,700 hours of flight and ground tests.  

First flight of ZA004

I suppose some day it will no longer be noteworthy when we have a new 787 start flying. But that hasn’t happened yet. For now, each new flight is a milestone.

So, it was really great to see a 3rd 787 join the flight test program on Wednesday.


ZA004 takes off from Paine Field, the third 787 to take to the skies.

ZA004 is the first 787 to sport the “light” Boeing livery.

It takes much less time to paint - and the 787 program is really focused on making the most of every day they can gain.


First flight underway for ZA004.

Heather Ross captained Wednesday’s flight. She’s one of 10 pilots who have now flown the 787 and is the lead pilot for ZA004 throughout the flight test program.

Each airplane has its own lead pilot. Capt. Mike Carriker is leading on ZA001 and he is also our chief test pilot. Capt. Randy Neville, who flew with Carriker on the first flight of the first 787 and captained the first flight of ZA002, is the lead pilot for ZA002.

Our pilots have been actively involved in the program for many years. Capt. Carriker has been on the program from Day 1. As you might have guessed, flying is the part of the job they like best. But they have other responsibilities, including working with the engineers and with the aerodynamics, stability and control and systems teams that designed the flight deck as well as working on the handling characteristics and flight control software.


Captains Heather Ross and Craig Bomben in front of ZA004 at the conclusion of that airplane’s first flight.

Although it’s the 3rd to fly, the airplane that flew is actually the 4th 787 flight test airplane to come down the production line. ZA003, the 3rd production airplane is still being finished.

This has been part of our plan for a long time. ZA003 is taking longer to complete because it has an interior. In addition, we prioritized ZA004 because we need it to get into its test regime to give us data that the 787-9 team requires to make progress on its work.

By the way, in addition to getting ZA004 airborne on Wednesday, we also had ZA001 and ZA002 flying. Quite a day.

We expect to have all 6 of our 787 flight test airplanes in the air before the end of the second quarter.

ZA001 status

The first 787 - ZA001 - returned from Moses Lake Sunday morning after landing there on Friday.

Our flight test pilots had touched down at the Grant County International Airport after they experienced an uncommanded loss of thrust in one of the engines. It was an opportunity to really see the best of Boeing kick into gear. Teaming with Rolls-Royce, we determined that the issue had to do with a pressure-sensing component within the engine.

We located replacement parts and then got the parts and the right crew to Moses Lake - beginning the maintenance activity on Saturday. Later that day, we ran the engines to confirm that the replacement had been done correctly and that there were no anomalous readings.


ZA001 on a flight test earlier this year.

So, Sunday morning, we flew home. The airplane is going through the maintenance and pre-flight work that would have been done had it arrived back at Boeing Field on Friday evening. I can tell you that ZA001 will soon return to flutter testing.

It’s a great tribute to the team that they completed the analysis, maintenance activity and testing in such short order. This is what happens during flight testing - and our plan accommodates such events.

We deal with issues and we keep going.

Sky blue

The first flight of the 747-8 Freighter took place under such gorgeous weather conditions that we’ve had the opportunity to see some spectacular photography - from both the professionals and the hobbyists.

I think some of the coolest photos I’ve seen actually came from our own Boeing employees.

I wanted to share two such amazing shots - beginning with this extraordinary image captured by Tom Prettyman as the 747-8 flew directly over his home in Stanwood, Washington, which is just north of Everett.


The 747-8 on its first flight with two chase planes in perfect formation. (Tom Prettyman photo)

Tom, who works in BCA Core Engineering, tells me he snapped the shot above just as the airplanes soared out of a huge cloud - the same cloud those who watched from Paine Field saw them disappear into right after takeoff.

Another incredible angle on first flight (below) is captured by Anthony Ponton, a Marketing project director and one of my colleagues on the yearly Current Market Outlook.


The airplane heads north, offering a crisp view of the wings, gear and the “747-8” painted on the belly. (Anthony Ponton photo)

Anthony staked out a position at the Future of Flight Center at the north end of the Paine Field runway - because he wanted to capture a shot of the airplane flying overhead just after takeoff. He says he was fortunate to catch the airplane between clouds, so that in the picture it looks like a beautiful sky blue day.

And that it was.

Fantastic four

The 4th Boeing Dreamlifter took off from Paine Field in Everett this morning.


This is the 4th and final Dreamlifter of the fleet of specially modified 747-400s - designed to fly the large composite parts of the 787 from our partners around the world to final assembly in Everett.

AERO Q1 2010

We’ve just posted online the latest issue of AERO magazine.

If you’re technically-minded, it’s worth a read, with some good content around airplane maintenance economics, laser illuminations and other topics.


You can click on the image above to go directly to AERO online.

Eighth wonder


A simply breathtaking air-to-air shot of the 747-8 Freighter and Mount Rainier during first flight on February 8.

I can see for miles

I must say I’m a bit blown away by the response to the first flight of the 747-8 Freighter, but on the other hand, I’m not surprised either, since this airplane has a very special place in my heart as well.

Some of you (on the other side of the globe) commented that you stayed up very late to watch the flight live on the Web. Others simply used words such as “wow,” “magnificient,” “awesome,” “phenomenal.”

Well, I couldn’t agree more.


Many of you asked for air to air and gear up photos. Here you get both!

By the way, you can read a good accounting of the pilots’ press briefing after first flight here.

And we’ve also made available a video of first flight. My favorite moment in the video is just after takeoff when the airplane disappears into the clouds.

It’s magical.

Up in the air

First flight of the 747-8!


The -8 Freighter took to the skies at 12:39 p.m. Seattle time on Monday, February 8, 2010.


It’s all just a little bittersweet for me. Obviously, I worked hard in my previous role to sell this airplane, and I’m extremely excited to see it flying. But since I’m still in Asia following the Singapore Air Show, and visiting customers, I didn’t get to see this historic flight in person.

Nonetheless, I’m sure I’ll get to see this great airplane fly many times in the future as we begin our flight test program. 747 Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein and Capt. Tom Imrich were at the controls for the test flight - the first of more than 1,600 flight hours coming up.


On approach back to Paine Field at the conclusion of first flight.


Touch down at 4:18 p.m.

At the conclusion of the flight, Feuerstein told reporters that the new 747-8 Freighter reached a speed of 230 knots (264 mph/426 kph) and an altitude of 17,000 feet (5,181 meters). He said the airplane handled just like a 747-400.

As Feuerstein put it, “a big day for a big airplane.”

Gonna fly now

The first flight of the 747-8 Freighter is set for Monday, February 8, at 10 a.m. Seattle time.


We completed taxi tests on Saturday, the last functional test planned before the -8 flies. We’re told that the airplane reached a top speed of 90 knots (103.5 mph, 166.6 kph) during the tests, with Chief Pilot Mark Feuerstein at the controls.


The 747-8 during taxi tests in Everett on Saturday.

We’ll be making available a live Webcast of the takeoff and landing at this site. That site will be available 24 hours before the flight.

You can check out more information about the first flight at Boeing.com and at newairplane.com.

I gotta feeling

SINGAPORE - I just finished up my 2nd Singapore Air Show. What a week!

Things for me got started with the ATW (Air Transport World) awards. Air New Zealand took home the big prize, “Airline of the Year, and Air Tran Airways won the “Airline Market Leadership Award.”

Perhaps the highlight of the ATW event was the amazing sight of Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe, up on stage taking part in a “haka,” the traditional Maori dance ceremony.


Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe (on the right in the foreground) does a haka at the ATW Awards in Singapore. Photo courtesy: Air Transport World

At my press briefing on Tuesday, I faced a crowd of more than 70 journalists from around the globe. Their questions hit upon virtually all aspects of the market and our business. Of particular interest was the 787 flight test program, the latest on the 747-8, the outlook for the Asian market, what’s new with China, the potential 737 re-engining and where we stand on future 777 development. I also addressed a few questions on the threat of sanctions over the U.S. government sales of weapons to Taiwan.

I spent the later part of the week here with customers, analysts, investors and more media.

Reflecting on the show and all the great conversations here, what’s very clear is that Boeing (and Airbus) will face some stiff new competition in the airplane and services markets. Of course for us specifically, this year will continue to be one in which all eyes are on the prize – two very important development programs and simultaneous flight test and certification as we move toward first deliveries of the 787 and 747-8.

I’d also sum up that just as clearly the market is coming back. And you might say “I gotta feeling” that Asia will lead that recovery.

Heat of the moment

SINGAPORE - I delivered my media briefing here on Tuesday at a very hot, muggy and busy air show.

A lot of the news coverage so far has focused on our outlook for the next couple of years - essentially that 2010 will be another year where we won’t see a huge demand in terms of aircraft sales, but that we see this year as a year of recovery, with 2011 the year airlines return to profitability, and 2012 when we expect to see a rebound in demand.

I also had the opportunity to “co-host” a segment on CNBC Asia’s Squawk Box this week. As I mentioned on the show, Asia is the hot aviation market right now, and a region where we expect to see 30% to 35% of the future demand.

As is often the case while I’m traveling, there’s lots going on back home. So let me share a few photos.

We’ve just unveiled the interior of ZA003, the 3rd 787 flight test airplane, and the one that is configured to test the passenger experience elements of the Dreamliner.


The interior of ZA003 includes 135 seats, as well as lavs and crew rests.

The third 787 flight test airplane will be used to test, analyze and certify the various elements of the interior, including lighting, lavatories, stowage bins, windows and galleys. It has a partial interior, shared, as you can see below, with flight test instrumentation racks and equipment as well as work stations for engineers.


Need I say that these are images of a real airplane interior now, not a mockup - an exciting glimpse into what the flying experience will be like, and another step toward certification and delivery of the 787.

This is an airplane that’s going to change the way we fly, not only for travelers here in Asia, but around the world. I can’t wait.


SINGAPORE - I’m at the air show and getting ready for my press briefing here. There’s a lot to talk about as always and I hope to fill you in as time permits.

Meantime, Boeing reached a pretty neat milestone just recently, that I couldn’t pass up telling you about.

Over the holiday break in December, at our Commercial Delivery Center at Boeing Field, two flight crews from Brazilian airline, GOL, boarded a pair of white and orange liveried Next-Generation 737-800s and jetted off to Brazil.

Why was that a milestone? The first of those two airplanes to depart was the 3,133rd Next-Generation 737 produced. That means that with that airplane, we have produced more Next-Generation 737s than all of the earlier 737 models combined.


A record-making Next-Generation 737 departs for Brazil.

We reached this “goal” in record time. 737 employees broke this record for Next-Generation 737s in just 12 years. It took 32 years to produce the same number of 737-100s, -200s, -300s, -400s and -500s.

And that’s just part of the story. When we delivered the very first Next-Generation 737, Boeing employees and suppliers embarked on a journey to continuously update this great airplane and produce it more efficiently. The result is that final assembly in Renton completes a 737 in just 10 days now, compared to 22 days earlier in the decade.

Boeing produces 31 Next-Generation 737s a month – better than an airplane a day - including weekends and holidays.

You’ve heard me say repeatedly that we are striving to always improve on the airplane we deliver to our customers – and we are still updating passenger comfort, and airplane performance and navigation. The Next-Generation 737 is lighter, consumes less fuel and releases fewer emissions. And it’s more economical to operate and maintain.

For example, 737s delivered between September 2008 and September 2009 have had so few technical issues that passengers on these airplanes left the airport gate on time 99.8% of the time. That’s great news for GOL, and the other 120 operators who fly the Next-Generation 737.


Two GOL Next-Generation 737-800s being prepared for delivery in December. The two airplanes departed within minutes of each other.

In the next few years, passengers will enjoy the new 737 Boeing Sky Interior, including those who fly with GOL - a launch customer for the new interior. It’s just one of several enhancements we announced last year, along with airframe and engine improvements that will reduce fuel consumption and emissions by a further 2%.

As I mentioned to reporters and analysts last month in Europe, and will no doubt talk about here at the Singapore Air Show, we’re in the initial stages of assessing the viability of a “re-engine” program for the Next-Generation 737 as part of our normal, on-going product development efforts. Clearly this is a hot topic of discussion in our industry right now, but while our initial assessment indicates that we do have the flexibility to re-engine the Next-Generation 737, we haven’t yet made a decision to move forward.

But getting back to the “goal” of this post, GOL also happens to be marking a big milestone, completing its ninth year of service this month. As GOL set out to make flying affordable for Brazilians, it increased its fleet size from six airplanes to 109! And they are all are Next-Generation 737s.

By the way, last year GOL joined the Sustainable Aviation Fuel Users Group and GOL’s airplanes are being equipped with a GPS landing system and vertical situation display to help make takeoffs and landings more efficient.

Dare I say .. GOL!!


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