March 2010 Archives

Bend me, shape me

It was an exciting day in Everett on Sunday as we took the wings on the 787 static test article to their “ultimate load” condition - bending them up by approximately 25 feet (7.62 meters).

The test represents 150% of the most extreme load any Dreamliner is expected to ever see in service, and it’s meant to ensure that we have appropriate design margin to account for unexpected events.

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Bend me, shape me” indeed. A remarkable photo taken during Sunday’s ultimate load test.

While the test only lasted a short period of time, as the team slowly applied the loads necessary, it took years to get to this point - and the expertise of hundreds of people. An airplane is an amazing creation, with countless design decisions that all have to come together in a machine that flies safely and reliably.

That just never gets old, if you know what I mean.

The test team is now taking a detailed look at all of the data gathered during the test. There are thousands of data points that need to be correlated to the expectations we had going into the test. That effort will take several weeks.

But, initial results are in and they’re positive.

We have test personnel in a control center during the testing. They watch displays of key data points as the testing is happening. Those folks saw nothing that indicated there was any concern. Still, we’ll go through the detailed review because that’s the level of precision required when building a commercial jetliner.

While we’ll have to wait until the final results are in to declare success, we’re certainly encouraged by what we saw on Sunday.

WTO ruling

We’ve talked a little here in the past - but not a whole lot - about subsidies and the World Trade Organization case.

Well, today you may have seen or heard reports about the WTO’s final ruling in the U.S. government’s case against European government subsidies to Airbus.

The ruling is confidential at this point, but it will most likely be made public in the next couple of months.

However, the news reports we’re seeing quote officials who say that the U.S. has prevailed on all of the major issues in the final decision, reaffirming the WTO’s interim decision from last year.

We’ve posted Boeing’s comments on the WTO’s landmark decision on Airbus subsidies.

Flutter and ground effects

We’ve just achieved a further two important steps in the 787 flight test program – we completed flutter testing and ground effects testing.

Both of these accomplishments move us much closer to achieving Type Inspection Authorization (TIA) from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Flutter” is something you definitely do not want to happen in flight. It occurs when aerodynamic forces act on airplane structures and control surfaces causing a rapid, self-feeding motion that can be very destructive.

So, during flutter clearance testing we purposely introduce oscillations to verify that the airplane is not subject to flutter when operating within normal parameters. We verify it by demonstrating that even when an oscillation is introduced, the airplane will dampen the effect.

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ZA001 takes off from Boeing Field during flight test.

We tested at a variety of altitudes, speeds and fuel loads on ZA001. During the testing, we saw altitudes above 43,000 feet, dive speeds as high as Mach 0.97, and calibrated airspeeds as high as 405 knots.

The technical team has made an initial assessment of the data and we couldn’t be more pleased with the performance of the 787. The damping was as predicted and the pilots report that the airplane responded as expected.

Based on this data, the 787 test fleet has now been cleared to fly throughout its full flight envelope.

For the ground effects testing, conducted in Victorville, we looked at the aerodynamic effects on the airplane during low-altitude operations typically experienced during the takeoff and landing portions of a flight. This testing, conducted on ZA002, also went very well and matched our expectations.

Our test data is being turned over to the FAA as part of our Type Inspection Authority submittals. Upon validation by the FAA of this and other test items, we’ll see their technical teams join ours as we move into the next phase of this process – certification testing.

During certification testing - the longest of the four phases - we look at the extremes of the flight envelope including hot weather, cold weather, high altitude, over-speed conditions, hard landings and engine-out conditions. We also explore the details of performance from fuel burn to community noise.

There’s a lot left to do in flight test but no doubt we’re making great progress.

Production rate increase

As you may have heard today, we’ve made a decision to accelerate our planned production rate increases on the 777 and 747 programs.

It’s a move we’re making in order to support increased customer demand as the airplane market recovers.

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The 777 production line will increase output to 7 airplanes per month - sooner than planned - in 2011 instead of 2012.

The plan is to move up (by about 6 months) the 777 program’s rate increase - to 7 airplanes per month (from 5 per month). This increase would take place in mid 2011 instead of the planned early 2012.

For the 747 program’s production rate we plan to accelerate (by about a year) our increase to 2 airplanes per month (from 1.5 per month). The plan is to make this change in mid 2012, rather than the planned mid 2013.

What’s behind these changes is similar to what I’ve been saying for a while.

We see 2010 as the year of overall economic recovery within the industry - and 2011 as a year where airlines return to profitability. As a result, we anticipate an increase in demand for airplanes in 2012 and beyond.

Expanding the envelope

In a season of first flights, we’ve had three this week, as the 2nd and 3rd 747-8 Freighters took to the air in addition to a 4th Dreamliner.

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RC 521, our 3rd 747-8 Freighter flight test airplane, in the air over the Pacific Northwest during its first flight on Wednesday.

With Wednesday’s successful flight of the 3rd 747-8, we now have all three 747-8 flight test airplanes in the program.

RC 521 is the final 747-8 Freighter test airplane scheduled to participate.

Piloted by Captains Paul Stemer and Keith Otsuka, with Ralph Chaffin serving as systems operator, RC 521 took off from Paine Field in Everett, and completed a 2.5 hour flight before landing at Boeing Field in Seattle in some late afternoon sunshine. You can find video of the takeoff here.

The airplane reached 30,000 feet (9,144 meters) and an airspeed of 245 knots, or about 282 miles per hour (454 kilometers per hour).

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Sunday’s takeoff for RC 522, the 2nd 747-8 flight test airplane.

And then of course, last Sunday, we had a somewhat unique day of flying. Not only did the 787 Dreamliner ZA003 fly for the first time, we also saw the 2nd 747-8 Freighter, RC 522, successfully completing its first flight on the same day.

RC 522 flew a 2.5 hour mission which took it from Paine Field to Boeing Field. Captain Kirk Vining was at the controls for that flight, with Rick Braun at co-pilot and Joel Conard as systems operator.

This first flight for the 2nd 747-8 went to 27,000 feet (8,230 m) and 240 knots, or about 276 miles (444 km) per hour.

Each of the airplanes is intended for specific set of tests. For instance RC 522 will focus on community noise, environmental control systems and extended operation performance standards. From Boeing Field, RC 522 will transition to Palmdale.

1234

Number 1 was historic. 2 was spectacular. And the 3rd to fly was something special.

And now 4. Having 4 787s in flight test is satisfying, for sure.

It means we’re doing what we said – adding airplanes to the Dreamliner flight test fleet and marching through the required testing, proving that this airplane is the game changer we knew it would be.

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ZA003 takes off from Paine Field. With this mission there are now 4 Dreamliners flying.

Sunday’s flight of ZA003 – the 3rd flight test airplane, but the 4th to fly - like all of the other 787 first flights, had no surprises, and that’s just what we expect.

Captains Ray Craig and Mike Bryan spent a little over three hours putting the airplane through its initial paces.

ZA003, by the way, is the flight test Dreamliner that includes passenger interior features. In addition to demonstrating interior certification, this airplane will also test systems, noise performance, flight-deck operations and avionics among other elements.

You know, I was just thinking that the only “challenge” with the addition of ZA003 to the fleet is that it’s now going to start getting a bit interesting to visually keep track of these airplanes. Until now, each flying airplane has had a unique livery.

I’ve actually had the pleasure of seeing the airplanes flying over Seattle during the past weeks, and I could tell which airplane it was just by looking at it. But ZA003 has the same look as ZA004 (and ZA005 and ZA006 will match too)!

Oh well, as long as my only worry on the 787 program is keeping track of whether I’m seeing airplane 1, 2, 3 or 4 as it soars overhead, I guess I’ve got no complaints.

13 flights, 33 hours

Just a brief update on flight test activity for the 747-8 Freighter. We’ve completed initial airworthiness testing, which as you may know means that test engineers can now be on board during future flights.

This milestone also clears the way for the other 2 747-8 test airplanes to take to the air.

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A great air-to-air photo of the 747-8 Freighter over the Moses Lake area.

The 747-8 program tells us that the airplane is performing as expected during these initial test flights. 5 different pilots have flown the airplane 13 times and taken it up to 30,000 feet (9,144 m) and a speed of Mach .65 - in tests spanning about 33 hours of flying. We’ve done initial stall tests and other dynamic maneuvers, and performed an extensive checkout of systems on the airplane.

Coming up, we expect to take the airplane to more than 43,000 feet (13,106 m) and a speed of Mach .97.

When we get the other 2 airplanes flying soon we’ll be able to ramp up the test program significantly to meet our goal of about 3,700 hours of testing using 3 airplanes.

Hotel California

Here’s the thing with new airplanes: You design ‘em, you build ‘em, you test ‘em, and then one day, they just fly away to the sunny skies of California!

Seriously, though, we were very pleased to see ZA002, our 2nd 787 Dreamliner, has checked in this week at its new remote operations site in California. It’s another sign of the progress being made on the program.

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ZA002 on takeoff for its first flight back in December.

This marks our first flight test operations outside of Washington state. During this phase we’ll be looking at “ground effects” - the unique air flow over the wings during the takeoff and landing portions of flight when we’re flying close to the ground.

To gather the robust data we need to certify the airplane, we need to fly the airplane very close to the ground for longer than anyone will ever do in service. Victorville, California has the unique facilities to allow us to accomplish this work.

When we do remote operations, we bring a whole clan of support. There will be about 150 engineers and support people in Victorville on and off through the three week period while we are there. It’s no small feat to get the airplane ready for each day of flying.

This is the first of a number of remote-site operations we’ll do in support of 787 flight test. In fact nearly half of all flight testing will be done at remote sites.

So, we’re on the road - and glad of it.

Dream weaver

In my 28 years at Boeing, I’ve met some truly remarkable people who have changed our industry. Some of them you know, such as Joe Sutter.

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Boeing’s Klaus Brauer.

Others have spent their entire careers working behind the scenes or in very specialized areas. One of those people is my friend and colleague Klaus Brauer.

In 2009, Klaus retired after 30 years at Boeing.

He is considered one of the world’s leading authorities on airplane interiors and passenger comfort. His official title at Boeing was “Director – Passenger Satisfaction and Revenue.”

But Klaus would always be glad to explain to you that what he did was develop concepts and tools to help airlines become profitable. Those tools also guided Boeing’s product development efforts.

Before Klaus packed up his offices here at our Commercial Airplanes offices in Renton, we took some time to sit down and talk. Here’s “part one” of our conversation:

Klaus, you brought science to something that maybe had been seen as an “art” before. Is that fair to say?

I think that’s true. The origins go back to the 767 vs. A310 days.

I remember that well.

We were making these claims that the 767 is clearly superior because it has more window and aisle seats. Well, that makes intuitive sense. But as it happened I was going through some of our surveys and I said, “Wait a minute we’ve got all the data we need to model this.” And we’ve been able to design airplanes using the resulting models.

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Klaus - in earlier days - on the go in Beijing.

I thought of you because I was reading this book called The Last Templar. There was a line in it that went something like, “I got on the airplane, I could hear the door close, and how relieved I was because there was an empty seat next to me!”

Yeah, it’s still the biggest discriminator in passenger satisfaction. And you know what the revelation for me was? It’s not just that people like having empty seats next to them. It’s that row arrangements dramatically influence the probability of having an empty seat next to you. Now, the response of the traditionalists to this discovery was, “Boeing thinks comfort is a matter of luck.”

My point is, no, I want to make you lucky. And frankly by converting from 2-5-2 to 3-3-3 we made people lucky. As a result of the change to 3-3-3, millions more passengers have been seated next to an empty seat than would have in exactly the same load factor circumstances in a traditional arrangement.

Airbus embraced the traditional view, and its 2-4-2 arrangement is one of the worst in terms of seating passengers next to empty seats.

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A view of the “lucky” Boeing 3-3-3 cross section in the 787 Dreamliner.

And you know what’s interesting, too, is that with the A350, Airbus has changed their design philosophy. They started to talk about width at seated eye level, and perception of interior space.

You look at the A350 cross section. Frankly, it’s one of the ones that we considered for the 787. As I read the tea leaves looking at what they’ve done, they’ve basically gone far enough to get a kind of “inclusive-tour,” a very tight tourist configuration into the airplane at 10-abreast.

But we decided we shouldn’t go for that particular cross section for the 787 because it imposed significant added weight and drag on the airplane and as a result, higher fuel consumption, all that bad stuff. The inclusive-tour market was shrinking and people were growing. So we decided not to penalize the 98% of customers who wanted what we’ve offered, with a cross section optimized for the other 2%.

And I don’t think they’re getting any value with that cross section. I remember the conversation was, we were kind of plus or minus 3 inches. And of course they’re what, six inches wider?

We had the mathematical models in place to really analyze it. It was the first time we’d had that capability in the development of a cross section. And I still feel really good about what we chose instead.

What do you think about the 737 Boeing Sky Interior?

It’s my last new interior. It’s outstanding, really incredible. You know it’s funny, I think I’ve developed an eye for interiors and architecture and one of the things I’ve learned, one of the things I know about myself now, is I can’t tell from drawings. I can’t tell from a photograph.

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The 737 Boeing Sky Interior.

It’s interesting because we’ve used photographs with some of our executives and sometimes you’ll get, “I can’t see a difference.”

It’s true. You often can’t “get it” just from a photograph. It’s also true that you can be easily fooled by a photograph. I’ve worked with some of the best industrial designers on the planet and there’s always a point where they say, “We’ve got to mock it up.” So we’ve developed this capability to do very rapid mockups.

There were two really telling examples of this recently. When we did the 747-8 passenger interior, there was much I could extrapolate from the 787. But the door 2 area, I knew I couldn’t tell if there was enough loft in the ceiling - from just the drawings. Because when we see something in real 3-D our eyes and brains are amazing at “decomposing” it and re-assembling it in the brain to make it all proportional. Our eyes and brains simply can’t do that with a 2-D image.

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747-8 Intercontinental: Seeing the door 2 mockup was a revelation.

I’ll never forget when I first saw the loft of the door 2 ceiling for the 747-8. I knew what day the guys would be installing the ceiling panels over the door 2 area of the mockup, and I went over after they’d shut down for the night. Most of the lights were off. There were just a few safety lights on, like “ghost” lights in a theater. The front end of the mockup wasn’t built yet so just I walked into the gaping end of the mockup and back to door 2.

There was no one there to see the big smile that came to my face. It was gorgeous. The ghost lights were all I needed to see that the designers from Teague had nailed it.

Made a couple of tweaks, but it’s spectacular.

And the 737, it’s the same way. I went into the half-finished mockup and could see how beautifully the Boeing Sky Interior works in the 737. Frankly, it really exceeded my expectations, which were pretty high to begin with.

Of all the projects you’ve worked on, which have you enjoyed the most? I know that’s a hard question. And this is not, “This is Your Life, Klaus Brauer!”

Wow. Can I do two?

Yes, there are no rules. This is blogging!

I’ve had the “nerd’s joy” of discovering some insights into making passengers more comfortable and airlines more profitable. And I had the great joy of working with and taking inspiration from many brilliant and dedicated people within Boeing and our partner, Teague.

I think there’s no question that the whole 787 creative process was extraordinary. From the kinds of research that I’d never been involved in before, all of Blake Emery’s psychological research, a discipline I’d had no familiarity with, to really being deeply involved with industrial design. Again, a discipline which is not something I was trained in.

So you actually got a chance to look at the back end, and the front end of the process?

And it was great because I’d been out in the front end for so long listening to customers and trying to understand their requirements. You’ve got everything they’ve been telling you for years and an understanding of their problems. But then we enhanced it with insights from the flying public.

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Klaus (l) and colleague Blake Emery in the Dreamliner mockup in Renton.

You know, our airline customers, God love ‘em, they’re in a tough, rapidly evolving business. To survive, the bulk of their focus must be on the short and medium term. They can’t afford to spend too much of their energies looking out 20 years. And I think it’s our job to look out that far. We owe it to our customers to keep an eye out that far in the future. And so the kinds of methodologies we were using, you shouldn’t expect an airline to do that for us, that’s our job.

And I think we did an extraordinary job with the research. And the team itself was just so broad, between the interior industrial designers at Teague and our own interior engineers at our concept center.

It took a lot of guts. It took a helluva salesmanship job to get Boeing to spend money that way.

And it’s a continuing process. And it’s delivering for Boeing. You develop things and hand them off and they’re matured somewhere else. It’s easy to say, “Yeah, that’s a product of the 787 program, or that’s a product of the 777 program,” when these things actually all had their genesis in the Boeing Concept Center. So all that, for anyone’s career, is a super highlight.

The second highlight is, being still a nerd at heart, I’m really happy with the revenue model that I developed, which we call “Whitefish.” The team wanted a fun name for it. Whitefish is ..

It’s a nice town near Kalispell, Montana near where I grew up.

Ha-ha. Well the true story is, yes, I came up with this during a family ski vacation in Whitefish, Montana. I had wanted to do a model that quantified the change in revenue that’s caused by a change in the passenger product.

The change could be, you increase the legroom, you decrease the legroom, you make the seats wider, you make them narrower, or maybe you change the class mix, have a few more business class seats and correspondingly fewer economy class seats. Any of those sorts of things.

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Speaking of cabin altitude: Klaus and family at Mt. Rainier.

We can even factor in some things that we were seeing from research for the 787. For instance, some passengers get screaming headaches from cabin altitude. How can we reduce that and what’s the impact of that? So I came up with an analytical model that represents a passenger decision process to the point where you get changes in demand. It represents the different fare buckets, as we call them. It replicates the configuration of an airplane and emulates the airline’s revenue management system, and everything gets pulled in.

So I worked all this on my laptop watching the snow come down from a cabin in Whitefish. It works very well and it has proven far more adaptable than I’d imagined in those snowy days in Montana. As far as I know, no one had ever done this, to the same extent, from product change to revenue change. And Boeing uses it now in talking with customers, and in product development efforts.

I even use it when I’m talking about 747-8. I can look at two markets with similar airplane configurations and different demand and say, “Hey, you can make more money than an A380 can.”

What’s been fun is, I’m a real believer that things need to be transparent. Whitefish allows you to look at every equation and track the numbers right through. When you get a surprise, good or bad, you can see what’s happening in the model, and ask yourself if you believe it.

The surprises almost always come because so many things were interacting that your intuition just couldn’t keep track of them all. When you can walk through the interactions in the equations you usually end up saying, “Oh, that does make sense.”

At the time of his retirement, Klaus pointed out that he’d been with Boeing through good times and bad times. As he put it, “Keep the faith. We have extraordinary people and a magnificent product line.”

Encouraging words.

I’ll share a bit more of my conversation with Klaus later, including some thoughts on what makes Boeing stand out in terms of innovation in airplane interiors, and Klaus’ view on what’s coming next for our industry.

NewGen Tanker

Boeing announced today that we will offer what we’re calling the “NewGen Tanker” in the competition to supply the U.S. Air Force with a multi-mission aerial refueling aircraft.

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The NewGen Tanker is based on the 767 commercial jetliner - but it will be updated with the latest and most advanced technology. Click on the image above to go to our New Gen Tanker launch site.

Our colleagues at Boeing Defense, Space and Security believe that our new offering will satisfy all mandatory Air Force requirements. It will also offer an American-made tanker that’s “capable, survivable and combat-ready” at the lowest cost to the taxpayer.

In today’s announcement, Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Jim Albaugh emphasized that “the NewGen Tanker will draw on the experience and talents of an integrated U.S. Tanker Team, including the best of our Boeing defense and commercial businesses and our nationwide supplier network.”

By the way, we’re calling it “NewGen” because the airplane will feature state-of-the-art systems, including a digital flight deck with electronic displays taken directly from the 787 Dreamliner, a new-generation fly-by-wire boom, and the capability to control the airplane by the aircrew with unrestricted access to the full flight envelope at any time, rather than allowing computer software to limit maneuverability.

You can read more about the cost and operating benefits of the Boeing New Gen Tanker and other details here. And keep up with the latest news on our NewGen Tanker blog.

Boeing will deliver our proposal by May 10, and the Air Force is expected to announce its decision later this year.

Eight miles high

I think it’s fair to say that last week was a great example of the interesting dynamics of flight testing. Yes, we had some obstacles to overcome - dealing with remote maintenance activity on ZA001. We also had some firsts - three 787s flying on one day; reaching an altitude of 43,000 feet while maintaining a 6,000 foot cabin altitude; and reaching a speed of Mach 0.9 during flutter testing.

And of course we saw the first flight of ZA004.

You might want to check out the new video of that flight - including scenes from inside the flight deck - at the 787 flight test Web site.

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Touchdown at Boeing Field for ZA004.

Our next 787 flight test airplane, ZA003, will fly soon. Its flight has moved into March because we had some work yet to complete and we decided to put some additional flight test equipment in now rather than after the first flight. That way, we’ll make more flights sooner and get the data from the airplane we need.

Bottom line, we’re making good progress and good decisions.

 

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