Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is still on track for first flight this fall and delivery in the third quarter of 2009 — but manufacturing issues are cutting into the extra margin Boeing built into the schedule.
FARNBOROUGH, England — Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner is still on track for first flight this fall and delivery in the third quarter of 2009, but manufacturing issues are cutting into the extra margin Boeing built into the schedule.
At a briefing Tuesday for the world’s media at the Farnborough Air Show, program chief Pat Shanahan said completing the midbody sections of Dreamliners No. 1 and 2, now on the assembly line in Everett, is the main issue putting pressure on the schedule to get the first airplane into the air.
Before No. 1 can fly, No. 2 must be completed for ground verification tests that are a prerequisite for first flight, Shanahan said.
The Dreamliner schedule revised this spring gave him some margin for such issues, “and I’ve been eating some of that up with completing the midbody” on No. 2, which still needed a lot of work when it arrived in Everett, Shanahan said. “I’m eating margin I don’t want to eat.”
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The midbody of Dreamliner No. 4 is still in Charleston, S.C., and will arrive as much as three weeks later than planned after manufacturing glitches at the Global Aeronautica supplier plant there.
That section was supposed to arrive in Everett, almost complete, by the end of June.
But the upper part of the 85-foot long fuselage section was damaged last month when a mechanic misdrilled holes.
Afterward, the factory shut down for a day for mandatory training after an audit by the Federal Aviation Administration found that mechanics were not following required procedures.
Global Aeronautica is a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Alenia of Italy.
Many of the permanent workers there are new to aerospace manufacturing, and the work force is supplemented by contract mechanics from all over the U.S. and from the supplier partners in Italy and Japan.
“The experience level [in Charleston] isn’t the same as in Everett,” Shanahan said.
He said the main problem has been incomplete work coming into Global Aeronautica from its suppliers. The site lacks the engineering resources that Everett has to deal with the problems that creates, he said.
Shanahan also said the brake-monitoring system identified in May as problematic won’t be fixed for some months yet.
The problem is a certification issue: The software that monitors the brakes doesn’t have the complete development documentation that’s needed to be certified.
“It’s not that the brakes don’t work,” Shanahan reassured his audience jokingly.
The supplier — a unit of GE that has subcontracted the system to Crane Aerospace — “had to go back and rewrite portions to verify the development of the software,” he said.
“I am confident, because this is GE, that it will get done,” Shanahan added.
Such problems are typical and inevitable, and yet unpredictable, in any airplane development program, he said, shrugging them off with humor.
For those that are behind on the certification track, “we have after-school detention on Saturday,” he said.
After the news conference, Shanahan characterized his troubleshooting leadership role as “a great game of whack-a-mole.”
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or email@example.com
on second day
The world’s biggest air show kicked off its second day Tuesday with orders for 20 jets for European plane maker Airbus.
Boeing also announced an order from Nigerian carrier Arik Air for seven next-generation 737s, while Russian aircraft maker Sukhoi said that Uzbekistan-based Avialeasing was buying 24 of its Superjet 100 aircraft.
Airlines from oil-rich Persian Gulf countries have saved the show from a lackluster start, signing orders for about 150 planes worth more than $25 billion Monday.
“We carriers from the Gulf are the center of attraction these days,” said Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker as he announced an order for four Airbus A321s worth $360 million at list prices to a packed room of journalists.
The Qatar deal, which includes options for two more single-aisle A321s, was followed by an announcement by Tunisair for 16 Airbus jets worth $1.94 billion. The deal had already been made public in April.
The United Arab Emirates sought to move deeper into commercial aerospace through a deal Tuesday between the aerospace division of Abu Dhabi investment fund Mubadala Development and Airbus parent EADS to produce and supply parts for Airbus.
The plant will open in 2010 initially making wing components, with the goal to eventually develop and design larger composite structures.
Tuesday’s 737 announcement by Arik Air adds to its existing order of 10 of the aircraft.
Arik also announced its intent to buy four 747-8 Intercontinentals, but the number will not be added to Boeing’s order book until final negotiations are completed.
Sukhoi said its deal with Avialeasing was worth more than $630 million. Avialeasing took an option for 16 additional aircraft.
Almost 1,500 exhibitors from 35 countries are at the show, which ends Sunday.
The Associated Press