Boeing 787 launch customer All Nippon Airways will take its first airplane in the second quarter of 2008, the program’s vice president of sales, marketing and product support, Marty Bentrott, confirmed here yesterday. Although he would not identify the contracted month, Bentrott did narrow the time frame from previous indications of “mid-2008.” Under Boeing’s current schedule, the major assembly on the airplane would start during this year’s third quarter and first flight would happen during the third quarter of 2007.
Intent on dispelling rumors that 787 certification might run as much as nine months late, Bentrott insisted that all aspects of the program remain on schedule.
Once certification happens, maintaining production schedules will depend on suppliers and the availability of raw materials more than anything.
The fact that less than 20 percent of the airplane consists of aluminum will certainly help allay supply chain concerns, however. “One of the benefits of the composite nature of the Dreamliner, when we look to build production rates it’s not competing strongly with aluminum,” said 787 program manager Lars Andersen. “So we’re able to do this without putting stress on raw materials for our other airplanes that might be going into production.”
Yesterday’s Asian Aerospace briefing also revealed that Boeing might have miscalculated airlines’ preference for seating configurations. About 65 percent of Boeing’s 787 customers have opted for a nine-abreast configuration in parts of the cabin, a configuration that will allow for 17.2-inch seats rather than the 18-inch variety Boeing envisioned as standard. In a 787-8, nominally designed to seat 220 to 250 passengers, one customer has managed to increase capacity to 270 by choosing a nine-abreast layout, said Bendrott.
Still, Bendrott pointed out that, even at 17.2 inches, such a configuration would equate to roughly the same level of comfort typical in a 747-400 economy section.