Another blown deadline – so what else is new?

By Tim Raetzloff | Sep 30, 2010
On April 21, Boeing executives enthusiastically reported that the flight-test program for the 787 Dreamliner was on schedule for completion by mid-September.

On April 26 I reported it was virtually impossible for the 787 flight-test program to complete on time because only 20 percent of the test hours had been completed and there wasn’t enough remaining time to make up the hours that were lacking.

On April 27 I received a note from a Boeing representative explaining why my numbers were faulty. Among his rationales was that there were two additional test planes that would be flying by June to help expand the flight-test load.

A few hours later on April 27, Boeing suspended deliveries of fuselage sections and wing components to Everett to cope with supplier delays. The suspension was to last five weeks.

There have since been two more delivery suspensions, according to Scott Hamilton of Leeham. The official Boeing release April 27 said that this suspension of deliveries “would not affect the 787 schedule or deliveries” because the first airplanes for delivery were already assembled.

Well, somebody’s numbers were wrong, all right. But I don’t think they were mine (at least not this time).

Mid-September has come and gone and the 787 flight-test program goes on … and on.

I reported in April that the 787 flight-test program needed 1,900 hours for completion. As of Sept. 25, only 1,200 of those hours have been accounted for. By my arithmetic, this leaves 700 remaining hours to complete the program.

Boeing has been logging about 240 hours of flight tests a month. 700 hours will put completion of the flight-test program at about Christmas.

Boeing has announced that it intends to use two additional aircraft in the flight-test program in order to complete it. Those are not the two planes mentioned in the April 27 report. So there are now eight test aircraft.

What happened to the other two test planes? 787s Nos. 5 and 6 wouldn’t have affected the test schedule under any circumstances, even if they had been finished on time. The first four test 787s all use the Rolls Royce engine; also the two additional planes that will be used in testing.

The 2,400 hours of flight tests are for those four 787/RR (now six) aircraft to lead to certification. 787s Nos. 5 and 6 use GE engines and must fly a separate 1,200-hour test program.

The GE test program is further behind schedule than the Rolls Royce program. Of the two planes that should have been flying by the end of June, only No. 5 has been in the air, completing 176 hours of flight tests at this writing in 3½ months of test flights.

By comparison, 787 No. 1, the comparable airplane in the Rolls Royce test fleet, had flown nearly 300 hours in its first 3½ months of test flights.

787 No. 6 hasn’t flown at all. It is four months late – no reason given by Boeing except that it “isn’t high priority.” No. 6 is finally on the flight line, has taken on fuel and run its engines, but hasn’t completed all pre-flight tests and will probably fly some time in October.

Don’t look for the 787/GE flight test program to finish before June 2011!

Oh, and that delivery schedule that “wouldn’t be affected”? Boeing now says the first delivery is delayed until early 2011.
My guesstimate is that it likely will be mid-2011 or later.
• • •
(Tim Raetzloff, who operates Abarim Business Computers at Five Corners in Edmonds, evaluates Puget Sound business activity in his regular column in the Beacon. In the interests of full disclosure he says, “Neither I nor Abarim have any interest in or conflict with any company mentioned in this column.”)

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.