Boeing won't consider submitting the 787 Dreamliner for certification in the third quarter without Etops capability, notwithstanding differences in qualification testing the FAA has instituted since the 777 earned its FAA ticket–complete with Etops approval–in 1995, CEO Jim McNerney said during the company's January 26 fourth-quarter earnings call.
Speculation has surfaced recently that Boeing might have to wait to certify the airplane for extended twin-engine operations over water until perhaps next year due in large part to delays associated with the November 9 electrical fire in the second 787 prototype as it approached Laredo, Texas, during a test flight from Yuma, Ariz. That event forced Boeing to move expected certification from next month to the third quarter.
"Etops is fully in the schedule and contemplated to be completed," said McNerney. "We don't want to deliver these airplanes without Etops and neither do our customers [want them without it]." McNerney did seem to acknowledge, however, that the different approach taken by the FAA in its Etops certification regime compared with the methods it used 15 years earlier had prompted Boeing to add some "buffer" to its target window for certification.
"Etops is different this time around than it was on the Triple Seven," he said. "It used to be sort of cycle-based back in Triple Seven days; now it's kind of fault-based, condition-based. And so it's a series of tests that we've got to go through; we understand them. The question is exactly what data is applicable to each test point at the FAA and we are working together to make sure we do it right. So we've got a little wiggle room in the sense that it's the first time we've been through it. We think we understand it. Could it be a couple of weeks less or a couple of weeks more? That's all encompassed in the margin in the guidance as we go through this different Etops testing regime."
Meanwhile, said McNerney, Boeing continues to test its aircraft with a "temporary fix" related to the electrical problem that led to the in-flight fire, and that it must put in place a permanent solution before Etops testing resumes. "But I think it's fair to say that the FAA and our people are working closely together, have a common view and there is no misunderstanding between us about what needs to be done."
McNerney estimated that roughly 20 to 25 airplanes need significant reworking, but that the completion rate on newly built airplanes "is very, very high." Now working on the 31st airplane, Boeing appears to have steadied its production system, according to the CEO.
"Our production system is getting stable," he said. "But in the first twenty-plus airplanes there's still some work to be done and we're going through it."