Boeing 747-8 Back on Track, Could Fly before 787

 - September 28, 2009, 12:07 PM

Since Boeing 747-8 vice president and general manager Mohammad “Mo” Yahyavi assumed leadership of the program in February, the former head of the 737 P-8A Poseidon team has overseen a quiet transformation from an organization in a near state of disarray to one that Boeing Commercial Airplanes suddenly appears keen to promote as a model of efficiency. If, in fact, the 747-8 team manages to fly three airplanes by the end of the year, as Yahyavi told AIN he expects it to do, it has placed itself on a schedule track few would have predicted only four or five months ago.

“Our goal and target was, as a team, to get the fourth airplane back on track,” he said. “And as a matter of fact that happened. Everybody signed up to that, so there was a lot of personal commitment and engagement and focus to get the program back on master schedule from the fourth airplane on…”

Of course, it helped tremendously that Boeing returned engineering resources it had borrowed from the 747-8 in a vain effort to meet first-flight goals associated with the 787.   

By late August Boeing had begun work on the program’s seventh airframe and the eighth wingset. Yahyavi said he expected to finish building the first airplane during this quarter and fly it in the fourth. If, as he suggested, progress on the second airplane lags 20 days behind the first prototype, and the third aircraft lags just 20 days behind the second, then the first airplane would need to fly no later than November, if all three airplanes are to take to the air by the end of the year.

As barely a peep has come out of Boeing’s 787 communications organization of late, one can only assume that first flight of that program continues on schedule for the fourth quarter. But anecdotal evidence points to an even earlier flight of the 747-8–a prospect that, if not a practical victory for Yahyavi’s team, would certainly mark a symbolic achievement for a program that for years has played second-fiddle to the much higher profile and more economically important Dreamliner.