Boeing is deep into preparations for its first “green” 787 BBJ delivery in 2012 and is confident it can avoid the myriad early completion problems that plagued the first 737-based BBJs more than a decade ago.
“We’ve seen that movie,” said BBJ president Steve Taylor, referring to the difficulties completion centers had with initial BBJs during the late 1990s. Those problems caused substantial cost overruns and millions of dollars in losses for the centers and delivery delays for frustrated end users.
Taylor said Boeing is already meeting with likely completion centers for the 787 and is developing data packages required to facilitate outfitting of the new, all-composite aircraft. Boeing has orders for between 12 and 16 787s destined for private completions, Taylor said; however, the first “signed” private 787 has yet to be formally announced.
Nevertheless, a few completion centers have already shared their preliminary 787 interior designs with Boeing, and in January the OEM held a week-long symposium for all licensed widebody completion centers to discuss the various 787 data packages and their release schedule. “We’re starting the dance already,” Taylor said.
The packages need to be released in the correct order to meet completion centers’ timelines. Taylor said that Boeing planned to have all outfitter data packages done at least one year before delivering the first private 787. At this year’s BBJ owners and operators conference in June, Boeing updated the widebody centers on the progress of those data packages.
While the 787’s all-composite structure presents a learning-curve challenge that is causing consternation for some of the completion centers, Taylor said that in many ways it will make completions easier. “The frames are pre-drilled and the attach points are designed so that most completion elements can hang from those points. In aluminum airplanes, that does not exist. Overall, the structural interfaces will be easier or the equivalent” of an aluminum airplane, Taylor said.
Taylor expects the 787’s “highly integrated systems architecture” to make it easier for designers to use the aircraft’s standard LED lighting system, but also to generate more assistance requests from the centers; however, he said that those challenges likely can be overcome by doing things such as writing additional software code.
“The completion centers will have to come back to Boeing on certain things and we will help them,” he said. Taylor explained that a “bucket” of Boeing engineering hours will be included in the price of every private 787, as is the case with the BBJ.
John Swenson, Boeing’s manager for BBJ completions, and his staff will be the conduit to get the completion centers any answer they need “within the 1,000 different points” of information inside the 787 program, Taylor said.
Boeing is also reaching out to established aircraft cabin designers who are likely to be tapped for 787 projects and will give them the first phase of outfitter data, which includes everything needed to fashion an interior. Taylor characterized the typical private 787 buyer as “experienced; they have been down this road before.”
Taylor said that the lag of more than one year between the time Boeing delivers its first and second green private 787s should also help it quickly incorporate any lessons learned, but for now “we think we have our data lined up to support completion needs” on the aircraft.