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.
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.
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.