Boeing last week (Jan. 8th) announced internally a reorganization of its flight test department across Boeing Commercial Airplanes (BCA) and Integrated Defense Systems (IDS) that consolidates all flight testing into one organization.
The move will have several benefits, according to an e-mail sent to all employees of the Flight Operations, Test and Validation employees. The reorganization will:
Boeing hopes to reduce costs of flight testing by 10%, saving hundreds of millions of dollars annually. These costs currently represent 20%-25% of the total cost of new airplane development, Dennis O’Donoghue, vice president of the department, said in the e-mail. He will head the effort to consolidate the flight testing, which is current spread across 28 sites.
O’Donoghue wrote that full integration is hoped for by the end of the third quarter this year.
The effect, if any, on Boeing’s delayed 787 program is unclear. Flight testing is to begin perhaps as soon as late April but may be in May, June or early third quarter, depending on a wide array of variables and unknowns in the completion of airplane #1 and subsequent test planes. (More after the jump.)
A company spokesperson said the transition will be in phases and could not quantify if the 787 flight testing will benefit. With several new airplane programs in the works, including the now delayed 747-8, BCA was facing a manpower shortage to cover the aggressive 787 flight testing—originally scheduled in as little as six months, now timed for eight or nine—at a time when flight testing for the 777F and 747-8F were also expected.
Delays in the 787 and 747 programs relieved the pressure on the 777F flight testing, which is all but completed. The 747-8 will overlap the 787 flight testing if the revised schedule for the 747 remains intact. First flight for the 747 is now inked in for the fourth quarter this year, or perhaps as early as September. Flight testing for the 787 should continue through 2009.
Consolidating all test groups into one department should ease flight testing personnel pressures, said one person familiar with the process.
“We definitely see this as a positive step to improve the management of company-wide test and evaluation activities,” the spokesperson tells us. “It will ensure more efficient and effectiveness across the entire Boeing enterprise.”