787 First Flight

Update, December 15 0445 AM (Yawn): We’re up and have already done one radio interview for first flight set for 10 am today. Weather is iffy. The hourly forecast has 60% chance of rain at 8am and 50% at 9 and 10 am. As noted below, there can be no standing water on the runway. We were with Boeing last night and a 5,000 ft ceiling and 5 mile forward visibility are the set parameters for first flight.

We joked with Boeing that the ceiling could be down to the cockpit windows and the test pilots would say it was just fine for takeoff. Boeing, which sometimes isn’t known for its Corporate Sense of Humor, got the joke but still felt compelled to deny it!

There is a palatable sense of relief in the air, along with Seattle’s famous mist: the Day is finally here. Boeing Corp Com–and we–have been getting some really odd and uninformed questions from media. One of the weirdest: that Boeing will, on first flight, fly 50 ft above the ocean and turn off the engines to stall the airplane. This is silly on so many counts that no comment is needed.

Another: What is the worst that can happen? (Big pause on our part.) Well, the worst that can happen is the worst that can happen.

Holy crap.

The first flight is planned to head out over Eastern Washington and Moses Lake. It also may be as short as three hours because of incoming weather fronts, so if you are watching the live coverage, check back to your resource early.

Since we’ll be out of the office and away from the computer, we won’t be updating again till this even Pacific time; Jon Ostrower at Flightblogger will be Tweeting and other things practically on a minute-by-minute basis.

Original Post:

Boeing has set the first flight of the 787 for 10 AM Tuesday, December 15, weather and airplane permitting.

Boeing notified us Friday night that the airplane is cleared for flight. That leaves the weather, which for December is notoriously unpredictable in Seattle. In fact as late as Monday, snow is predicted at the lower elevations, including the Everett area where the 787 factory is located.

The weather Tuesday has a 40% chance of showers with temperatures ranging 41-44F. Boeing tells us that if there is standing water on the runway, the flight cannot proceed but if the runway is merely wet, it may, providing visibility is acceptable. Boeing declined to quantify this.

You can watch the live webcast at Boeing’s NewAirplane website; live coverage begins, according to the site, 24 hours in advance.

The Seattle Times has special coverage.

KIRO TV in Seattle will have live coverage of the take-off and landing; we’ve been invited to be at the anchor desk with them.

It goes without saying (so we will anyway) that this is a long-due event that will breath a sigh of relief for all the stakeholders in Boeing and specifically the 787. Being here in Seattle, we often talk to employees–both management and labor–and suppliers whose frustration is long, deep and sincere. Regardless of the labor-management fight over out-sourcing and the repeated disappointments to shareholders, customers and the stakeholders, we fully expect that there will be excitement to go along with a sense of relief.

It is widely acknowledged that the first “block” of 787s will fall short of customer expectations. It is widely acknowledged that the break-even on the program is way, way out in the future. Boeing has frittered away an important lead over Airbus. Much uncertainty remains with the program.

But airplane programs are hard, especially when there are ground-breaking aspects to the development of the product. When the 787 finally gets into smooth production and past the block points where improvements will bring the aircraft close to specification, the airlines will like it. We’ve been in the interior mock-ups on several occasions, and we can vouch that this is a truly nice “insides.” The 787 interior inspired the makeover for the 747-8 and the new Sky Interior for 737, and in the case of the latter (EIS in 2011), we can tell you as well that this interior’s look and feel blows away the redesign Airbus did in 2007 for the A320 family. The A320 make-over is highly functional and has lots of attributes–but it is a conventional 20th Century look vs the 21st Century look and feel inspired by the 787.

There will be two people only on the 787s first flight, the test pilots, obviously. While the airplane will be outfitted with all kinds of test gear in the cabin, all information goes back to command central.

The first flight is scheduled to be 5-5 1/2 hours and end at Boeing Field. Another 30 minutes will be held for post-flight shut-down and analysis before a press conference is scheduled.

We have to admit that we are getting a bit excited for this, too.

21 Comments on “787 First Flight

  1. “When the 787 finally gets into smooth production”.

    This is going to be later than sooner, and much later than anyone anticipates. While development difficulties at BA are a relatively new phenominon, blowing production ramp ups has be Boeing’s stock in trade since the merger.

    Not only do they have to overcome the dreaded global supply chain, they have to surmount a scratch effort in Charlston, a “surge” line in Everett, all the while maintaining 737 production, slowing 777 (slowing down can take a toll as well, in ways you can’t imagine) very possibly dealing with a tanker to build, and increasing rates on 767 and 747-8/I.

    And with McNerney’s continued efforts to dig his spurs into the flanks of Boeing’s unions at every opportunity, I expect a negative outcome when current contracts expire.

    But Boeing’s own ‘shoot the messenger’ culture will be it’s greatest problem, as lower and mid level managers send the all clear signal to the upper and executive levels, even while production implodes.

    And I’d like to believe that 787’s developmental troubles are over.

    But I cannot.

    I cannot accept the MTOW increase as nominal. It can only mean the the range/payload figures projected aren’t going to pan out, and that the problem will be compounded on the -9, where I believe the decision to use the -8 wing as is, is entirely premature. Concerns remain over the braking system, and the ECS as well.

    Duplicative production costs and further development expense ensure that the cash bleed from 787 has yet to be stanched.

  2. Question regarding 787 static testing

    Boeing now is set once again for flight testing the new 787 Dreamliner.
    There was a setback in June 2009, because parts of the static test airframe started to delaminate below 150% nominal load (nominal load = 2.5g) on the wings. Earlier in April 2009 everything was still fine when the static test airframe was able to handle up to 120% nominal load (corresponding to about 3g).
    Subsequently, Boeing engineers applied a patch on the wings of the 787 Dreamliner. Static testing was repeated December 2009 for 120% nominal load (successful), but not for 150% nominal load (corresponding to 3.75g) as required for certification.
    Despite this missing stress test, Boeing is preparing for 787 first flight on December 15.

    Why is this ?

    Did FAA allow Boeing to omit that stress test at ultimate load ?

    • From what I have read delamination occured in limit load testing and that the repeated tests were also at limit load. Limit load testing is required before first flight. Ultimate load testing must be complete for certification.

    • There is a little snitch in the wordpress SW.

      The “jup…” should have appeared as an
      asnwer to the first poster writing “Good Luck”.

      Next:
      Missing stress test?
      Ultimate load is as far as I understand this required for
      final certification.
      The FAA seems to like seeing a proof of passing “final load”
      tests for the experimental cert. ( achieved on Sunday and
      for the very first time I assume )

      My guess is that the abrupt termination of the FF planning
      in the summer was due to the FAA not succumbing to Boeing
      badgering in light of delaminations at unknown but assumed to
      be well below final load levels.
      ( The FAA publicly has kept absolutely mum during the last year
      while Boeing had quite a lot to say about absent FAA denial of
      approval. )

      There is a good chance that tomorrow night all this hassle will
      be forgotten ( or drowned in spirits ),

      so again:
      good luck, sucess in FF

  3. Pingback: Waiting on the weather « Machinists News

  4. Good Luck on the ‘GO’! Looking forward to the ride someday.
    I consider Boeing’s decision to build at the 787 niche instead of joining in with a superjumbo like the A380 the best thing they could have done at the time. Boeing set the standard for aluminum tube airframes with the 707, and this is their chance to do it again with composites. I’m glad they stuck with the plan while learning to build something newer and better.
    I’m sure they’ll get the ultimate load tst done eventually, instead of rationalizing it away like Airbus did on the A380.

    • To be able to “rationalize it away like Airbus did on the A380” is a badge of honor here, isn’t it?

      uwe 😉

    • wrt to ultimate load tests it is still possible to get certification even if the test fails by a small margin. As modern airplanes have fly-by-wire maneuver and gust alleviation it is possible for the manufacturer to reprogram the system to achieve wing load distribution that falls within the loading seen in the “failed” ultimate load test.

    • It is just as significant as any other first flight. Why is more so for the 787?

      • OK, UKair, let’s nitpick. What I should have said was new planes don’t get more significant than the 787. It’s only the second new plane Boeing has brought out in more than 25 years. During this time, Boeing has seen its position somewhat eclipsed by Airbus and the 787 is its attempt to claw back lost ground. This effort has been pretty shaky but may ultimately be vindicated. The 787 has sold in huge numbers. Lots of innovation – not in one particular area – but in combination it’s huge. For all these reasons, the 787 is more significant than the other recent new plane, the A380.

        As far as first flight is concerned, I’m sure everyone will be glad to get it out of the way. Airplane programs are not supposed to trip up at this stage. Usually it’s manufacturing, which Boeing hasn’t even started to address at the industrial level yet.

  5. OK, let’s look at this in detail.
    “What I should have said was new planes don’t get more significant than the 787. It’s only the second new plane Boeing has brought out in more than 25 years. “
    > Well, then what you should have said is that this is the most important FF for Boeing.
     
    “During this time, Boeing has seen its position somewhat eclipsed by Airbus and the 787 is its attempt to claw back lost ground. This effort has been pretty shaky but may ultimately be vindicated. The 787 has sold in huge numbers. “
    > Huge orders yes, but you need to deliver them, we will come back to that.
     
    “Lots of innovation not in one particular area but in combination it’s huge. For all these reasons, the 787 is more significant than the other recent new plane, the A380.”
    > That is complete nonsense. I can see you are a Boeing fan but please don’t step into the well know fantasy world, called ‘A380 is nothing more than a big plane’.
     
    “As far as first flight is concerned, I’m sure everyone will be glad to get it out of the way. “
    > And I will congratulate Boeing on a job well done, when the plane lands softly at Boeing Field.
     
    “Airplane programs are not supposed to trip up at this stage. Usually it’s manufacturing, which Boeing hasn’t even started to address at the industrial level yet.”
    > Certainly and to call this a successful plane you need to deliver all those orders, which is not easy, judging by Airbus’ painful experience with the A380.

  6. I was rather surprised. Though the viewpoint
    ( aft, slightly below in the video ) seems to
    additionally exagerate this. looks nice.

  7. It was worth the wait. Great job Boeing! And to it’s employees I say congratulations! The 787 is truly a special airplane. I can understand the nervousness of its naysayers… She’ll keep proving them all wrong.

  8. Just been watching the clip of the 787 maiden flight.
    Marvelous, very smooth starting and landing.
    She is really a cute girl, the 787 !
    And she shows a very stable flight attitude.
    I’m betting, this aircraft is very comfortable to steer.
    She very easily mastered the wind shear at 1000 feet.

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