787 On Home Stretch To Certification

 - August 15, 2011, 11:42 AM
ANA’s first 787 Dreamliner rolled out of Boeing’s paint hangar in Everett, Wash., on August 6. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing expected the 787 Dreamliner to complete its type certification testing over the weekend, pending final analysis of function and reliability data collected during some 335 hours of flying with the seventh airplane to participate in the program, ZA102. All told, the program clocked more than 4,800 hours during some 1,700 flights since ZA001 took to the air for the first time on Dec. 15, 2009. Now three years behind schedule, Boeing has instituted a series of engineering changes and overcome numerous testing delays to get to this point. Finally, it appears ready to deliver the first airplane to ANA next month. Also planning to resume 787 line movement this week after more than a month-long “pause” to replenish certain parts supplies and incorporate engineering changes, Boeing continues to face certain production system “challenges” as the company prepares to increase output from two airplanes to 10 per month by the end of 2013. “As we deliver the first two airplanes, we take a lot of risk off the table,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh said during the Jeffries 2011 Global Industrial and Aerospace & Defense Conference in New York last week. “But getting up to rate is something that is certainly going to be challenging…We have a lot of behind-schedule activities in the factory and it’s been driven by really three things. It’s been driven by a lot of the design churn that we’ve had coming out of the flight-test program, it’s being driven by some supplier issues that we’ve had and it’s also being driven by the fact that we’ve got a lot of new people doing a lot of this work.” Meanwhile, said Albaugh, the supply chain “looks pretty good,” although he expressed wariness against “overloading” it.  He said a so-called pinch point remains at the former Vought plant in Charleston, S.C., where Boeing produces aft fuselage sections, and Global Aeronautica, where most of the airplane’s fuselage sections undergo assembly.  “But the good news is we bought those facilities, we now control those facilities and we can do what needs to be done for them to support the rate increases,” insisted Albaugh. Boeing plans to increase production rates from two to 2.5 per month “in a month or so,” added Albaugh, maintain that rate for the next two or three months, then proceed to the next rate break. “And we’ll continue with those rate breaks only after we’ve become stable in the factory until we get to 10 at the end of 2013,” he concluded.