Changes

Today as I’m sure you’ve heard, Boeing announced a schedule change for the 747-8 Freighter.

We’re moving delivery of the first freighter to mid-year 2011.

Decisions like this are always disappointing, and most certainly always difficult to make.

We had previously indicated that as a result of some discoveries from flight test it was likely we’d move delivery of the 747-8 Freighter into next year.

Today’s announcement comes after a thorough assessment of the impact of those discoveries, which we determined would affect certification testing.

image/photo

The 747-8 Freighter in flight test over western Washington.

To support the new schedule, we’ll be taking a number of steps, including adding a 5th airplane to the flight test fleet.

Something important I want to point out is that the 747-8 is a complex undertaking. This is not just a derivative.

The -8 flies the new General Electric GEnx-2B67 engines, and has a new wing design with advanced airfoil, an improved flight deck with new features, extensive use of advanced materials and on the passenger version a new interior.

So while the shape is familiar, this is virtually a new 747.

Finding and resolving issues is why we flight test our new airplanes. In this case, the process is doing what is intended, so that in the end we’re going to deliver to our customers the world’s most efficient freighter.

Comments (12)

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Look, the news is disappointing no doubt. Boeing has been extremely fortunate that these delays have been during the trough in the market cycle. The market has been very weak. I'm wondering whether these delays are due to the nature of the flight tests -- test, confirm/uncover, remedy -- or because the company cut back too steeply at the start of the decade.

The other people that connect the world - Nokia - began shipping what appears to be a drawn out and heavily tested N8 today. It's a smartphone, but the stakes are high enough to ensure they get it right first time. And so too, Boeing needs to get these new exciting jets right first time.

Well good luck with the remainder of the test programmes for the 747-8F & 787. Looking forward to seeing the 747-8I in one piece.

David Parker Brown (Seattle, WA):

People seem to easily overlook how different of an aircraft this is.

One thing I have been wondering and meaning to ask Boeing, would these issues have been detected in the first Boeing 747? I am thinking that your test equipment has to be much more effective now than 40 years ago.

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

One cannot win all the battles in the first day and begin the next endeavor before the sun rises the next day. The delay is a disappointment but it is better for the 747-8 to be late and safe than hurried and grounded.

Jean Garren (North Charleston, SC):

Get it right the first time is a good motto, but when it has never been done before it requires extensive testing that has never been done before.

This is a completely new product different from any commercial aircraft ever built. I would rather as many delays as necessary to ensure safety, rather than the alternative.

I am eagerly anticipating full ramp up down here. In the meantime, I will continue to perform my best, as safely and quickly as possible, to help Boeing meet deadlines.

Way to go Boeing.....

Chris C (South Africa):

Without question, the 747-8F is an airplane beyond superlatives.

Whilst any delay in the design/development/flight-test/delivery is deeply regrettable and no doubt a major disappointment to Boeing’s customers, it’s absolutely imperative that the 747-8F, and -8I, be delivered to the market as mature and reliable products that perform as, or better than, expected.

Indeed, the 747-8 is virtually an all-new 747 in the brilliant guise of the 747, so naturally issues are likely to be discovered in flight-tests. As long as they’re rectified, all issues will be long forgotten.

The 747-8F will be the cornerstone of the large freighter airplane market, alongside the 777F, and these two airplanes are absolutely essential to the world freighter fleet as they offer capabilities, efficiencies and performances that are not only unrivalled in their segments, but a key enabler for freight companies to grow economically and environmentally.

Once the 747-8 family starts proving itself in the commercial market, it’ll become the pinnacle of airborne excellence in the large airplane market, and that I’m absolutely sure of!


John L (Tucson, Arizona):

I would say that it is obvious that the management team, that was in place at the launch of the 747-8, submitted an unrealistic and flawed plan to the Boeing Board of Directors. Why? Just look at the erosion of shareholder wealth and the lack of credibility on Wall Street that are a direct result of a flawed business case. Why?

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

I agree with David Parker Brown - it is indeed a very different jet from the 747-400 - in many ways.

It's got a brand new wing and engines - changes often highlighted in editorials about it.

Visibly, obvious changes are the double-slotted flaps, sleek engine pylons and raked wingtips.

The window-belt - the larger passenger cabin windows - are straight off the 777.

All 747's have been paper designs - from the very first - the -100 - right up to the -400. What Boeing has now done is taken that 747 heritage, refined it, added all the above points and more, and performed that task largely on CAD -- I believe the company uses Dassault/IBM CATIA.

On the 777 programme, the design data could fill enough Floppy Disk Drives (~1.44MB) that stacked on top of each other, would reach the height of Mount Fuji. So, as you can imagine, it is a monumental task. You just can't compromise on engineering staff.

The 747 has always fought for resources. The -100 was up against the SST. The 787 is company priority № 1 at this time - and it should be.

Tim K (Ont Canada):

Another delay from Boeing, its becoming all too common these days. You can sense the level of confidence dropping like a rock from airlines around the world. Everyone asking the same question these days, "What’s wrong with Boeing?"

Is this the result of poor engineering skills, bad management team, or over ambitious, wishful thinking Boeing Executives who release unrealistic development schedules?

This journal says “Something important I want to point out is that the 747-8 is a complex undertaking. This is not just a derivative”

It goes on to say: “Finding and resolving issues is why we flight test our new airplanes. In this case, the process is doing what is intended so that in the end we’re going to deliver to our customers the world’s most efficient freighter”

Since Boeing has decided to reinvent the wheel (747-800) it should of factored in extra development time to capture all the mistakes that would pop up. With this in mind I suggest to Boeing that the next time someone at your company pitches a development schedule that’s sounds too good to be true automatically double the development time to reflect reality and avoid these embarrassing delay announcements that do nothing except erode your creditability.

Tom (Germany):

Paulo M,

"The 747 has always fought for resources. The -100 was up against the SST. The 787 is company priority № 1 at this time - and it should be."

The 747-8F is an all new - defenitely not: It only got 1600 hours for testing and one test plane,another test plane,,,Now just five planes for 1600 hours!
Was it grandfathered and became all new?

Oh, there is the 747-8I: How many hours, how many planes are planned?

787: 3200 hours; 6+2/3 a/cs (two engine types,....)
747-8F,I: 1600+XXXX hours, 5+2 plus x a/cs

Seems, someone with Boeing said: We call it 747 dash what so ever , so it is a 747! We know it for decades, we have already inserted a lot of sections, changed the wings, the engines,...Where is the problem?

When do we anticipate the roll out of the 787-9?
When do we anticipate the roll out of the tanker and its first "revenue flight"?

Priorities?

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Tom,

Es tut mir leid, please note, however, that I did not say the 747-8 is a cleansheet. It is not. But that does not change the fact that it is a highly modified variant of the 747. It is probably a far larger step from the -400, than the -400 was from the Classics.

----------------------------------------------------------------------------------

History shows a bit of disconnect.
With the 777, Boeing had nine test frames in 1994/5. The 747-100 was on five by mid-May 1969. I see now that there will be a ninth frame on the 787 test fleet, and, of course, they committed a fifth for the 747-8F testing. Has Lean+ gone too far? Is that a fair question?

Programmes like the 777-300ER and 777F appear to be miraculous.

But, you see, Boeing is not the only company sporting late programmes; 747-8, 787, 767-based tankers, 737 Wedgetail, etc. --- Lockheed Martin is running a little late on the F-35, Airbus on the A380, A400M - and rumours persist about an up coming programme. Think Koito, and you get (some) suppliers adding delays to existing programmes.

Lead integrator & Suppliers both late.

The real question is what is going on with this industry?

Simon B (Sydney, Australia):

"This is not just a derivative."

Riiiighhht...ok, but didn't you grandfather the original 747-100's type certificate for the -8? How is this possible if it's "not just a derivative"???

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

IMHO,

The Production Certificate will in all likelihood be an almost entirely grandfather affair. Why? Because 747 production is a proven process. 40-plus years of production, and many AD's, etc later, it produces very safe aircraft. And the 747-400 is testiment to this.

The Type Certificate will have to be amended. Parts of the aircraft that cannot be grandfathered are the major changes. Of course, many of the flight controls on the aircraft's wing are completely changed, such as the move from trailing-edge triple-slotted inboard flaps to double-slotted design, and the introduction of fly-by-wire for some control surfaces. Indeed, the wing is largely redone.

Anyway, delays stem from issues around some of the changes. The main landing gear door buffet resulted from the inboard flap change, for example. So, clearly, this has little to do with how Boeing plans to certify the aircraft, rather simply the discovery of snags in flight test.

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Apologies for the epic number of posts on the topic. ;-)

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