Boeing 787-9 departs on first flight

The Boeing 787-9 left this morning on its first flight at 11:02 AM PDT. We discussed the implications of this first flight on Sept. 13.

We were at the first flight departure at Paine Field, Everett (WA), for what was essentially a photo-op (this isn’t a complaint); no Boeing officials were made available to talk with. The flight departed an hour later than schedule. As we write this, the flight is still airborne, due to land at Boeing Field at 4pm 3pm (back to original schedule) PDT. A press conference with the pilots follows, though we will miss this.

While waiting, a LAN 787-8 also prepared to depart on a test flight. Compared with the 787-9, the 788 is a stubby little airplane and the 789 much sleeker. We only imagine what the even longer 787-10 will look like next to its siblings.

Here are some videos we shot. We’ll start with the take-off, followed by other videos shot while waiting for first flight.

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Odds and Ends: 787 Developments on ELT, Production; Frontier as a ULCC

787 Developments: There have been a flurry of developments late Friday on the Boeing 787.

First, it emerged that Boeing’s Charleston plant will not reach a production target of three per month by the end of this year as Boeing repeatedly said. The Charleston Post & Courier first reported the story, and the Puget Sound Business Journal picked up on it Friday.

We weren’t surprised by this because (1) we’d been hearing rumblings for months that progress at Charleston was less than Boeing was suggesting publicly and (2) we got a call from the Post & Courier reporter a week ago perplexed by Boeing’s response when he made inquiries. And to us, this is the most bizarre part of the entire story. Boeing’s official response was quite snarky:

“If anyone was under the impression that Boeing South Carolina would be at three per month by the end of this year, they didn’t understand what we’ve been saying about the surge line in Everett helping us to meet the program-level rate as the facility there comes up in rate. That’s been our message for a long time now,” the Boeing Charleston spokesperson told the P&C and Everett told the Business Journal (via two different spokespersons).

This was really quite a pissy official statement from Boeing.

When the P&C presented Boeing with Boeing’s own statements from last year pledging a 3/mo production rate at Charleston, the Corporate Communications people had to backtrack. Steve Wilhelm at the Business Journal wrote:

But when confronted with Boeing’s own October 2012 release stating that the North Charleston operation would hit three monthly by the end of this year, as well as a 2012 interview with North Charleston site director Jack Jones, in which he said he expected to hit an even-higher 3.5 monthly rate by the end of this year, the Boeing communications team backed down.

After conferring with her colleagues, presumably in North Charleston, [Lori] Gunter (Boeing Everett) issued this statement:

“The 787 program is on track to reach a total production rate of 10 airplanes per month by the end of 2013. This rate will be accomplished by combining the results of the Everett Final Assembly Line, the Boeing South Carolina Final Assembly Line and the Temporary Surge Line in Everett. Boeing South Carolina is expected to reach a production rate of three airplanes per month in 2014.”

This is an embarrassing display from Boeing.

Since the surge line had been put over to rework, we wonder its current status.

Second, The Wall Street Journal, followed by The Seattle Times, reported that Canada’s regulators are about to issue an Airworthiness Directive concerning Honeywell’s Emergency Locator Transmitter; and that there was a part that should have prevent the ELT from overheating in the event of a short circuit.

Seperately:

  • Frontier as a ULCC: The consultancy CAPA has an analysis of the prospect of Frontier Airlines moving even more in the direction of becoming an Ultra Low Cost Carrier than it has already.

ELT was under own power at time of Ethiopian 787 incident

Here is some more information on the Honeywell Electronic Locator Transmitter and the installation/operation on the Boeing 787.

We asked Boeing about the prospect of interface between the ELT and the 787′s electrical system. Boeing told us:

In the event of an emergency, the ELT will be activated either automatically by means of an internal acceleration sensor—or manually by one of the flight crew via the flight deck ELT control panel.

At the time of the incident, there was no power to the airplane. The ELT was powering itself via its battery. When an airplane is in flight, the ELT still powers itself with no help from the airplane. It interfaces with the airplane via wires connected to the flight deck so that the pilot can activate the transmitter, if necessary. Turning on the transmitter doesn’t transfer any power to the unit. There is a co-ax cable from the unit that connects to the antenna (located on top of the fuselage).

As we noted in a prior post, Honeywell’s ELT in a different version was subject to an airworthiness directive from Canadian and European regulators. Reuters has this additional detail, including comment from Honeywell. The AD related to improper grounding, so an obvious question is whether there is a grounding issue with the 787 ELT that led to a short that prompted the fire. Investigations are still underway.

In any event, this appears to exonerate the 787. We still reserve final judgment pending a more complete investigation.

Boeing said that the ELT can be removed within one hour by the airline.

The New York Times has this update.

  • If this news weren’t good enough for Boeing, last night it rolled out the first 787-9. The Seattle P-I has a number of photos.

 

Supplier Honeywell thinks Sequestration is OK; Mystery photo

In a break from major defense contractors, politicians and just about everybody, the CEO of Honeywell thinks Sequestration might be a good thing.

We opined about this on Election Day.

For a switch in topics and our usual stuff, let’s have a little contest. You win nothing except bragging rights.

What is this?

Boeing 737 MAX update

Update: Aviation Week has this piece that has some good close-ups of artwork.

Boeing held a tele-conference updating the 737 MAX program. Beverly Wyse, VP and GM of the 737 Program are Michael Teal gave the briefing.

Beverly Wyse (BW)

Michael Teal (MT)

BW: 737 MAX has met firm design concept. Honeywell will provide an electronic bleed air system. Flight deck will have large displays from Rockwell Collins. MAX production will have future growth capability.

MT: We have in place a plan to preserve training commonality with large flight deck displays. We engage with regulators for training regulations and feel this will not be an issue.

Development team made significant progress to have aerodynamic design. We removed nose gear door bump from earlier iterations. We can get longer gear within the wheel well. LEAP 1B reached architectural freeze in September, freezing fan size and core size. Final design freeze will be in April 2013.

With the completion of firm concept, the completion of production design can move forward.

BW: It is important we maintain stability in our production plan. The 737 MAX transition allows us to maintain stability with NG rate increases and into the MAX.

Q&A:

BW: Third production line begins in 2015 with construction of first flight test aircraft. Eventually will use the third line for future rate increases beyond the planned 42 a month.

MT: Will only offer radial tires on nose gear, nose gear retracts further into the wheel well.

MT: 13% fuel reduction is a per-seat off the 737NG from today’s most efficient NG (19% better than original 1997 NG.) MAX will continue with the same maintenance cost as today’s NG.

MT: Goal is to have the same field performance as NG.

BW: 737-7 MAX: Many of our customers select a primary model but have substitution rights into other model. We see the -7 as being part of a family of aircraft where airlines can use -7 on thinner routes. It also serves missions in high-hot regions, such as in Tibetan plateau. We see the -7 serving these critical missions. I would no say “no question” that we will build it, but customers have asked about it and it is in our family today.

MT: Flight test plans for -8 will have four test planes. Expect to have two flight test airplanes for the -9 and -7.

BW: Part of the reason for more flight test airplanes is to proceed as fast as possible.

MT: Can’t give you at this time an exact count of the amount of change of MAX vs NG. This is part of the design process between now and the middle of next year.

MT: This airplane is an amended type certification, do not see re-certification.

[Editor: UBS Securities issued a new research note even as the teleconference was proceeding, with this comment:

[Systems changes represent onset of scope creep: This morning BA announced that it had achieved “Firm Concept” on 737 MAX including new bleed air system from HON, new tail cone, new winglets, and surprise move to upgrade 737 NG displays from HON with 787 large format displays from COL. BA’s move to incorporate updated systems beyond the engine represents a departure from its stated strategy of minimal design changes on 737 MAX.

[When MAX was announced, former CEO of BCA Jim Albaugh said he wanted minimal changes. The MAX has, for some time, appeared to be undergoing design creep, hence the questions about commonality and re-certification.]

BW: Right now we are saying 2017 EIS, [Southwest Airlines previously told us 4Q17, Jim Albaugh hoped to advance this schedule); as we move forward we will get more definitive about the schedule.