Boeing to use 10 787s for tests

Update, Sept. 2: Boeing retracts its information to Buckingham.

Buckingham just put out a follow-up note to its one issued yesterday, cited below. Interesting to say the least:

BA is using 2, not 4 additional aircraft for 787 certification

Yesterday we reported that BA is using 10 aircraft in the certification process vs. 6 originally to prevent further 787 delays. Today, BA contacted us to clarify their initial statement calling for 4 additional aircraft in the 787 certification program. BA now states that only 2 additional 787 aircraft will be used in certification: aircraft #9 for ETOPS and another unspecified 787 for ground tests. We believed that first delivery could slip into 2Q from 1Q given the need for 10 aircraft in flight test. Eight aircraft in flight test improves our outlook and lowers the risk of another 787 delay. (Emphasis is Buckingham’s.)

Update, 3:30PM PDT:

Boeing issued this statement:

There will be limited testing on two additional airplanes for a total of eight airplanes (not four for a total of 10). The additional testing is driven by the requirement that some of the testing be done on airplanes in production configuration as opposed to flight test configuration. One airplane will do some ground testing. The other will do some flight testing.

We also received this statement from Boeing:

We will be doing testing on two airplanes in addition to the dedicated flight test fleet. Some of the later tests require airplanes that are in production configuration. This has always been part of the baseline plan.

Although Boeing says this was “always part of the base plan,” Buckingham’s report was the first time we’ve heard of more than six airplanes (whether it’s eight or 10) being involved in the test program. Analyst and media presentations never mentioned this, that we are aware of. In fact, those who followed the 787 program will well remember that Boeing was very clear: they felt they could do the flight testing in eight months (a timeline that drew universal skepticism on Wall Street) because there would be six airplanes doing the testing, an increase from the 777 test program.

What we now understand from our sourcing is that more than six airplanes were part of the contingency plans in case things went south.

Update, 1:15pm PDT: Guy Norris of Aviation Week has this report on why the Trent 1000 failed.

Original Post:

Boeing will use 10 787s to complete certification, a Wall Street aerospace analyst reported today in a research note, the first time this has been revealed.

Richard Safran of Buckingham Research writes:

Originally, BA intended to use six 787 test aircraft for certification. BA CEO Jim McNerney previously spoke about contingency plans to maintain the 787 flight test schedule. One plan was to shift ETOPS (Extended Twin-engine Over-ocean Performance Specification) testing from the original 6 flight test aircraft to 787 #7-10. In order to prevent further delays to the 787 schedule, BA is now using 10 aircraft in the certification process. The engine failure of 787 #9 in ground test delayed certification (and first delivery) because RR did not have a replacement. Since BA is now relying on 10 aircraft for certification and given the difficulty getting 787 #6 into the test program (now slated for September), we think it’s possible first delivery of the 787 could slip beyond 1Q11 to 2Q11.

Separately. we inquired of Boeing about some other aspects of the engine issue (Rolls-Royce, as is typical, did not respond for comment).

We asked Boeing why, after  2 1/2 years of delays, there were more engines available that could be used to put on the All Nippon Airways plane to maintain first delivery in January (December already having been largely written off by analysts)–especially considering that Boeing planned to have 30 airplanes ready for delivery by the time certification was achieved. Boeing responded that engines are delivered “just in time,” a common supply chain method to control inventory costs.

Indeed, of the 12 787s assembled but parked on the ramp at Everett (WA)’s Paine Field, where the 787 is assembled, none has engines.

Why was the engine that had the uncontained failure at Rolls so critical to the program and ANA’s delivery?

Boeing said that two engines are required for ETOPS and “function and reliability” (F&R) testing and are uniquely instrumented.

“Some of this testing will occur on airplanes later in the production sequence vs the primary flight test airplanes,” Boeing told us. “This is not out of the norm for new airplane programs.”

Unaware of the plan to use 10 airplanes when we asked our questions, we do not have information about the tasks planned for the extra four aircraft.

17 Comments on “Boeing to use 10 787s for tests

  1. That’s hardly a surprise. LN1-LN6 cannot be considered production-representative, so there’s little or no point in trying to use them for ETOPS qualifcation testing. LN9 has sported a Boeing flight test registry (N6066Z) for a long time.
    For the same reason, you can expect some parts of flight testing to be repeated with LN20.

  2. IIRC, it has always been a 10 airplane flight test fleet for all certification work, including ETOPS. B-787-8 #7, 9, 14 and 16 were to be the four airplanes just for ETOPS work, it takes two airplanes with RR engines (#7 & 9) and two with GEnx engines (# 14 & 16) to complete all the ETOPS certification requirements.

    I may have the GEnx line numbers wrong, but I am close.

  3. ANA, the first customer, weren’t going to fly their planes initially on ETOPS anyway: Faces ETOPS Certification Delay For 787s – although it’s not clear from this 2007 article when Boeing were going to complete their own ETOPS certification.

    Also not having an engine available for ETOPS testing doesn’t explain why Boeing has effectively halted all testing with RR engines. Issues still unanswered I think.

    • OK.
      What aside from the engines is different in #1 to #4 versus #5 ( and #6 )

      Does that fatique issue bite here?
      i.e. all frames are essentially time limited with the latter entries not yet there? ( someone had individual flighthours written up, lost the link though )

      And has RR been thrown under the “Alcoa Bus” 😉

  4. FF2 Since when did Boeing stop all testing with RR engines. In the past few days there were flights to the North Pole as well as Iceland. If anything, the length and duration of the flights are increasing.

  5. To have so many open questions about the number of aircraft required for certification, within a few months before the delivery of the first 787
    delivery to ANA, based on the officially maintained delivery schedule
    announced by Boeing until a few weeks ago, is very disturbing by itself.
    To now hear that there are not enough engines to conduct the planned
    flighttests, in addition to the unknown consequences of the “uncontained”
    RR engine failure on the teststand in Darby, puts a huge additional
    questionmark on the whole 787 delivery program.

    All this in addition to the unofficially reported estimates, that the
    brake-even number for the 787 program has now gone above 2000 units,
    one wanders whether Boeing will ever make any money on this program!

  6. It was patently clear from the start that the ambitious condensing of time allowed for certification of a moderatly radical design would never work, indeed from its very conception Boeing acknowledged the fact.

    As Boeing struggles to iron out a whole miriad of problems with the structure the test regime leading to certification would appear to be the least of Boeings worries.

  7. Rudy,
    I do not know where you came up with the figure of 2000 planes for breakeven.Sounds rather preposterous.

    I suspect that there is a need for more “modified” RR engines which are currently being prepared or the use of the “B model” which simply was not prepared since the test bed failure had not occurred and was scheduled for a later production.

    The use of four additional planes for ETOP certification makes sense. Two will be RR and two will be Genx. This seems like a sensible backup to insure some sharing of certification responsibilities.

    There was a delay of six weeks…not a calamity and all eyes are focused on getting this accomplished

    • Around FirstFlight or a bit later it was established in some press conference
      that the then current orderbook would not suffice to break even. ~=1000?
      With waiting customers getting irate and in view of bargain sales Boeing did
      I don’t think 2000 is a less phantastic number than EIS in 2010 😉 Keep in
      mind that this is a compound interest affair.

      six frames over ten month for certification would have been acceptable under
      the assumption that the plane would be pefectly planned, build under perfect conditions to a perfect simulacrum of the perfect plans running a perfectly planned certification suit without any hitches. Well Boeing dropped the ball
      at item one. Fixing things late requires exponential effort.
      ( Airbus incurring delays in the inception phase is thus a lot more acceptable
      than rushing into manufacture just to “look good” while a clear definition is
      lacking, though Boeing may just have lacked perception for this lack unknown
      unknows all around )

      Boeing seem to have a knack for being actively decissive at a too late date.
      My impression about the missing engines is that Boeing got the 10planes idea
      about a fourtnight ago, told RR : next Monday, Sir John, we would like to have
      another sixpack of Trent1000 engines delivered. ergo Alcoa bolts allover, again.

    • I think sometime around the time of the last major delay (I think just after Paris airshow last year) Boeing refused to comment on whether the programme was in a forward loss position. Which indicates to me that it probably was (since a simple ‘no’ would have been a good answer otherwise). So at that time it was at least 875 planes. 2,000 sounds ridiculous, but 1,000 I could easily believe. At a development cost of US$20bn (and counting) to Boeing, that’s US$20m per plane. At heavily discounted sales prices at the outset (see article on Air China order), it would be difficult to make this money back on the first x number of frames sold. Even then, at the original very low sales price, it would take a long time to make the money back.

      It won’t kill Boeing anymore than the A380 killed Airbus, but it’s got to hurt.

  8. Uwe,

    You just have to roll with the punches. Do the best you can. It was a RR engine that failed…unexpectedly.

    There are always alot of phantastic claims made on these sites.

  9. Of all the main 787 sub-contractors, RR and GE must be bleeding almost as badly as Boeing and pretty sure that both engine builders have probably reduced inventory levels in line with what they foresee the demand levels are likely to be.
    Therefore not many spares sitting around right now.
    On another subject, one of the prototypes went to Edwards about three weeks ago for the Vmu tests,
    Any news? It should’nt take that long to bolt on a temporary tail skid.

  10. Does anybody know what the production rate (per month) is for jet engines?

  11. For those who still believe that the unofficially reported 787
    break-even number of 2000+ is “preposterous,” please take
    the following into account:

    1. One 787 customer is already known to have claimed $950
    million in damages, incurred due to the now minimum
    three-year delivery delay on their 787 aircraft.
    Even if Boeing were able to negotiate this claim down to
    half that amount, with the number of 787 customers in-
    volved, these damage claims by themselves could easily
    amount to many billions of dollars.
    2. The costs incurred by Boeing to correct the various design
    flaws and structural failures, to get the aircraft ready
    for certification are not known, but can be expected to
    amount to several billion dollars as well.
    3. Where the original development cost for the 787 was
    estimated to be around $14 to $15 billion, it is easy to
    accept the fact that the recently mentioned $20 billion
    in revised development costs is NOT going to cover any-
    thing near the above mentioned costs, as a direct result
    of the now near three yearlong delivery delay for many
    of the 787 customers.
    4. And if the above is not enough to convince some skeptics,
    or those who are extremely concerned about the viability
    of the 787 program like me, there is an internal Boeing
    Management instigated document dated 2001, which
    analyzed the reasons why MDD went bankrupt on the
    DC-10 and MD-11 programs.
    The conclusions reached by the internal Boeing team,
    can be summarized as follows:
    . It simply was NOT possible for MDD to make much if any
    money, by just bolting the various outsourced aircraft
    ections together.
    . The near total amount of outsourcing on both programs
    by MDD was, therefore, concluded to be the main reason
    why MDD did not make any money on either program.
    . While MDD did not make enough money by assembling the
    aircraft, the various risks sharing partners DID make lots
    of money on the programs.
    . The above internal Boeing study concluded with the following
    significant recommendation, in the last line of the report:

    That internal Boeing study was dated 2001, 3 years BEFORE
    Boeing launched the 787 program with great fanfare, claiming
    that the near total amount of outsourcing would spread the
    financial risks among Boeing and all its partners.

    In addition to the above conditions which caused MDD to
    lose money on both the DC-10 and MD-11 programs, Boeing
    experienced the following additional financial burdens with
    their 787 partners, which were not experienced by MDD, as
    As widely reported, many of the outsourced sections of the
    787 were not in compliance with the specifications stipulated
    by Boeing, which forced Boeing to step in financially, to make
    sure that the delays would be kept to a minimum.
    In one case, Spirit, Boeing was forced to purchase the CO,
    in order to keep the cockpit section built by them, alive!

    Until I retired in 1989, there was a general attitude to-
    wards outsourcing among Boeing executives like Jack
    Steiner and Joe Sutter, who stated very clearly, that “crown
    jewels” like the wing and cockpit were of such proprietary
    nature, that it would be “very unwise”to have these sections
    manufactured outside the CO.!

    Taking all the above into account, the unofficial internal
    Boeing conclusion I reported earlier, that the break-even
    point on the 787 program has now gone past the 2000 mark,
    must regrettably be taken very seriously!

    • #1
      I assume thats the claim from that indian airline (whose name I forgot). Which says really nothing about compensation. The amount of potential compensation is written down in contracts and is most likely nothing near that amount. However what airlines can do is raise further noise to get more compensation or other cheap aircrafts as Boeing tries to retain them as customers. Which is the case for that particular airline (which coincidentally has financial problems and could use more cash durr durr)

      Personally I do think that Boeing wont make a profit on the first 1000 frames. Based on some tacit acknowledgment from Boing that they might not make a profit on their current backlog, and some further delays and production troubles since then. However +2000 frames for breakeven is very unlikely in my view. They’d really have to screw up their production for that.

      Thats an interesting study, cant really comment on it as my knowledge about MDs failure is sparse.

      However I agree that Boeing made huge mistakes in their outsourcing. Even worse they laid off alot of experienced people(after all one of the reasons why you outsource), whose Expertise is missing now.

      And make no doubt this is going to hurt them for a long time, including their next clean sheet. Many seem to think that lessons learned, new start is some sort of miracle cure. The issues from corporate culture to communication breakdowns to regaining lost expertise will take many years to fix and wont be resolved before their next clean sheet development.

  12. Re. Comment #1:
    “However, what airlines can do, is raise further noise to get more
    compensation or other cheap aircraft, as Boeing tries to retain them
    as customers.”

    In addition to whatever the eventual break-even point is, my greatest concern
    ever since the 787 program started incurring serious delays, is the very serious danger that many 787 customers can and might cancel their 787 orders WITHOUT PENALTY, GET THEIR DEPOSITS BACK (WITH INTEREST) and order “superior” A350s, for delivery at about the same time they would have received their 787s!
    For those who do not agree with the above word “superior,” pls. take into account:
    1.That after United ordered a large number of A350s, as well as some 787s, they
    stated that these aircraft would replace all their 747s, 777s and 767s and
    2.That the A350 has not only sold almost 600 units already, but that the A350
    by design, is superior to the 787, for the same reason the record setting 777
    was a much better airplane compared to either the MD-11 or the A340!
    Why, because Boeing had the benefit of being able to, or rather had to make
    sure, that the 777 would be a superior aircraft compared to the above two
    completive aircraft of the same capacity and range, already on the market, or
    they would and should have kept their money in their pockets!

    The above is a simple lesson in aviation history,because:
    There has always been a serious risk in being first with a major new design concept!
    . The 707-120 vs. the DC8 (Only immediate action by CEO Bill Allen, to develop
    the 707-320, which not only saved the 707 program, but also put BCA on the road
    to worldwide supremacy in commercial aviation by the end of the last century.)
    Boeing lost that position, only because they failed to recognize that Airbus
    (with subsidies) simply copied the Boeing example, by always being one step
    ahead of Boeing in each category of aircraft, beginning with the ultramodern
    fly-by-wire A320 in the mid 1970s, while Boeing did not wake up to the Airbus
    challenge until it was too late in the 1990s!
    1. The Comet vv the 707
    2. The Trident vv the 727
    3. The DC9 vv the 737
    4. The 747 lucked out, because by the time the airplane was the right size in
    the late “70s, it was too late (too expensive) to challenge it, due to very
    high escalation cost increases in the ’70s.
    5. The A310 vv the 767.
    All Boeing “WINNERS,” because they came in second!

    With the 787 program in serious trouble, as well as the 747-8 program and the
    A350 becoming a very serious threat to the 787 program, I am very surprised,
    but pleased, that the financial world is still considering Boeing stock to be
    in the “BUY” category!
    As a loyal and dedicated member of the Boeing team, before and after my
    retirement in 1989, I am pained by the above developments and I am more
    than willing to be proven wrong!

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