FAA funding gap won’t affect 747-8, 787 certification plans

As Boeing pushes ahead toward certification of the 747-8 and the 787, with goals for delivery of the 747-8F and the Dreamliner before the end of this quarter, Congress adjourned without funding the Federal Aviation Administration responsible for the process.

Boeing hopes for certification of the 787 this month; it has not specified anticipated certification of the 747, but with a previously acknowledged “neck and neck” to EIS for the two airplanes, it’s logical to conclude 747 certification is along the same timeline.

Dominic Gates of The Seattle Times previously reported that some US airport certification for the 747 may be delayed, most likely at Newark, Chicago, San Francisco and Houston. But airport certification and airplane certification are handled by different divisions within the FAA. Boeing has been told that FAA certification activities are continuing. FAA personnel involved in the type and production certification of the 787 and 747-8 are paid out of general appropriations (not the Aviation Trust Fund) and therefore are not affected by the furloughs.

The two flight test programs are in their final phases, with the 787 undertaking a non-stop flight from Guam to Seattle and the 747—in a clever piece of planned flying—doing a 17 hour trip within the US airspace in a “747” flight pattern.

First delivery of the 787 is, within aviation circles, being talked about for the third week of September but Boeing hasn’t announced this. September is figured to be the month for the first delivery of the 747-8.

The 787 last week had a publicized emergency landing declaration on a flight test when a sensor failed shortly after take off from Everett’s Paine Field. But nothing we’ve heard suggests that the declaration was more than a procedural matter and not an actual emergency such as the in-flight fire a year ago. The flight test program continued to expose things that needed fixing, but no show-stoppers.

As for the 747, the high-profile, major issues have been resolved long ago.

“Early on we had the flaps 30 buffet problem on the freighter,” program VP Elizabeth Lund said in a media briefing in advance of the Paris Air Show. “We had this big, wonderfully new designed flaps that came down almost to the ground. Unlike our old ones which were three-piece flaps and the air could fly through the cracks, these are [one-piece] flaps and the air went around the flaps caused a buffet. The good news is our low-speed performance was better than predicted. We were able adjust the flaps to solve the buffet early on.

“There were two other big problems we struggled with early on,” she said. “One was a 2.3 hertz (Hz) vibration. At the very tip of the wings, the tips moved one inch. You could feel it. Technically it was flutter.”

Michael Teal, chief project engineer for 747, said the fix involved the ailerons.

“With a really long airplane, we put a yaw damper on it. This was the same thing. To resolve the oscillation, we used the outboard ailerons to counteract it.”

The third problem involved inboard aileron actuators and Lund said that has been resolved through getting a new actuator and other system design changes.

One issue that remains outstanding, but which won’t halt certification, is the advanced Flight Control System isn’t where Boeing wants it. This is a brand new flight management computer, designed from scratch, and Lund acknowledged it has been a real challenge and the full capabilities won’t be ready when certification is granted and EIS comes. The FCS will be at a par with the 747-400, with full capabilities following—though Lund did not say when the FCS will be fully functional.

Boeing had seven 747s in the test program at one point: five freighters and two Intercontinental passenger airplanes. At the time of the media briefing, one freighter had been withdrawn from the program and was being refurbished in San Antonio for the Cargolux configuration for the first delivery.

Lufthansa Airlines is the first customer for the Intercontinental and crews are undergoing training at Boeing now to learn the differences between the -8 and the -400. Lufthansa expects its first delivery during the first quarter next year.

2 Comments on “FAA funding gap won’t affect 747-8, 787 certification plans

  1. We can see the loght at the end of the tunnel for both the B-787-8 and the B-747-8F/I. The FAA inspectors and certifiers are almost done with their work on both airplanes.

    The airport certification program is different as it is handled by the airports division, not the airplane division. The airports must be certified for ADG VI aircraft, which the B-747-8 is (so is the A-380) and it involves which runways and taxiways an ADG VI airplane can use. Scott listed SFO, IAH, and ORD as some of the airports needing this expanded certification. That may be because these airports do not have the proper taxiways, fillets, and taxiway safety areas to/from the freight ramps for the B-747-8F. The A-380F, had it ever been built, would have had the same problem at these same airports. These airports can handle the A-380 and B-747-8I into the terminal ramps, and to/from the runways.

  2. The certification plans will not be affected since Boeing pays for the wages of the FAA inspectors assigned to oversee the airplane certification program.

    As to the certifcation of airports in handling the aircraft types, that is another story.

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