787 Completes first battery test flight: Flightaware track

787 test flight

(Click to enlarge image.)

Boeing issued this statement:

ZA005, Boeing’s fifth 787 flight test airplane, departed from Boeing Field at 12:32 p.m. Pacific time on Saturday, Jan. 9, with a crew of 13 onboard (Boeing pilots and flight test personnel). The flight lasted 2 hours and 19 minutes, landing back at Boeing Field at 2:51 p.m. Pacific time. The crew reports that the flight was uneventful.

During the flight, the crew monitored the performance of the main and APU batteries. Special equipment onboard ZA005, which is currently the only member of the Boeing 787 flight test fleet in service, allowed the crew to observe and record detailed battery performance in normal flight conditions.

Data gathered during the flight is considered part of the investigations into the 787 battery events that occurred in January. For that reason, we cannot share any additional details.

We have no flights planned for ZA005 Sunday, but plan to resume flights early this coming week. As a matter of long-standing practice, we do not provide flight schedules in advance of flight plans being filed.

Takeoff photos from today’s flight have been posted here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/theboeingcompany/sets/72157632730482850/. Landing photos will also be posted on our Flickr page when they are available.

45 Comments on “787 Completes first battery test flight: Flightaware track

  1. Sadly, I think this press release exactly represents what Boeing has become.

  2. Boeing should use their flight test 787’s as aging process simulators used everyday intensively. Possibly on lease to an airline doing Seattle – North Charleston daily shuttle on a low cost model.

    Two important areas to be tested – high power electrical systems and composite aging wear and tear.

    I hope the Dreamliner will not be another Comet – technically solved but commercial flop.

    • There’s an airframe undergoing fatigue testing in the test stand at Everett to this day. I don’t know how many cycles they’ve put it through but it’s a lot.

      • Putting the 787 on actual airliner run will be more realistic, across different systems. The fatigue test 787 will surely help

      • Does the second set of 3 frames actually conform to the final certification? ( The first 3 seem to have been uncertifiable and
        have been taken out of circulation ).
        In systems debugging recreating the environment for a fault
        ( or just forcing the issue ) can be a very high hurdle.

        What about “wet” passengers being a core incredient here ?

    • This is where IMO lays an yet uncovered risk. The batteries were also extensively testing, qualified and certified as part of the total electrical system and aircraft. NTSB sent out signals it didn’t work. Now they might have (the FAA take) a look into different design areas to see if the same or different processes, delegations and certification processes took place.

      The original statement of the secretary, FAA boss and Conner was an extensively negotiated shoulder to shoulder effort to limit the damage for Boeing. Who were the forces that had these folks say what they said? Where was objectivity, regulations and public safety? Was this an incident or symptomatic?

      Boeing is very much focussed at solving the battery issue and restoring deliveries. But they have to be carefull, friendly and cooperative now or the US government will force them to replace the top, like in 2004. Maybe they’re to late already..

  3. rengab :
    I hope the Dreamliner will not be another Comet – technically solved but commercial flop.

    For the time being it’s exactly the opposite. The Dreamliner is already a commercial success, but will remain technically uncertain for some time:

    1- Instability of Li-ion batteries.
    2- Uncertainty over composite fuselage.
    3- Unpredictability of massive electrical system.

    Like Gary Scott used to say, Boeing is on the bleeding edge of technology with the 787.

    • Commercial success? The program has sold over 800 frames, but the break-even point moves further away with each problem. Not a failure yet, still a young plane. But not yet a commercial success either.

      • The Dreamliner is a commercial success because Boeing sold more than 800 before the aircraft even made its first flight. And there has been very few cancellations despite all the problems.

        But like you suggest commercial success does not necessarily equate with financial success. If we consider the total amount of money spent so far on the Dreamliner, plus the penalties associated with the current crisis, it will indeed take a very long time before Boeing can break even on the programme.

        The aircraft can still generate a positive cash flow when the unit production cost will finally be compensated by the selling price. But we are not there yet. And when we do get there it will still be a very long shot before Boeing will have reached break-even over the overall programme cost.

        That time may actually never come if the problems persist.

        • KDX125, if that is true for the Boeing MAX, it would be true for the NEO, too, even though neither OEM has said anything about switching from Ni-Cad batteries to Li-Ions for those models.

    • sales success != commercial success.

      Think about all those funky cars and GA planes that had a long list of buyers with prepayments that never made it into an unconditionally available product.

      • @Uwe: I’d say it is a bit unfair to mention the 787 in the same context as those kinds of projects. (Ironically enough, though, Tesla cars would rank as one of them, and they are now giving advice to Boeing on battery design.)
        Sure, 800 orders in the books are nice but don’t mean a thing if they don’t actually get delivered – as Boeing already knows, given that they used to have an order book around 900. But while I do see the current problems introducing significant additional cost and delays to the programme, I don’t think they’re going to bring the whole project (and thus Boeing Commercial Airplanes) to its knees.

      • ” … I don’t think they’re going to bring the whole project (and thus Boeing Commercial Airplanes) to its knees.”

        I don’t expect that to happen either. At least not just from direct 787 problems.
        I am less sure about systemic management or workforce relations problems and what kind of blowback could result from going deeply into the “Boeing, little brother FAA” relationship.

      • It’s a good question and I don’t have the answer. But so far it’s around 10% for the Dreamliner. What is hard to evaluate is the reason behind those relatively low numbers.

        1- Is it because the customers still have high confidence in the product?

        2- Is it because there are no other alternatives since the A350 order book is already full?

        3- It it because the airplanes were sold at such a ridiculously low price that the customers are just holding on to the steal?

      • Absolute numbers. I think there were 1,100+ orders so far but 250+ cancellations.

        • So that means it’s actually more than 20%. I did not realize that that many orders had been cancelled. That’s because the actual figure has remained relatively constant for many years now. The new orders being nullified by cancellations.

      • The picture illustrates very well the classic disconnect between engineers and bean counters.

  4. rengab :
    I was talking through the whole airliner life cycle. The about 800 orders left may yet disappear.

    I don’t think the order backlog is in jeprody just yet. All those orders are for replacing airplanes currently in service or for the growth of the airlines that ordered them. I don’t see anything available that can replace these orders. The A-350 is all booked up and the B-767 doesn’t have the range or capability of the B-787. The A-330 is also out of the question because of its backlog, and replacing 800 + B-787s would not be feasable as it pushes deliveries through the early 2020s and doesn’t have the range needed. The B-747-8 or A-380 could do it, but at the cost of the extra fuel burn of a heavier 4 engine airplane instead of the lighter twin B-787. This defeats the fuel advantage of the B-787.

    • The various economic “hickups” in the recent past help imho.
      could this have been a piece of the plan ? ( though badly executed
      CM spoke of certification taking 7..8 years and not 4 years : not way around it )
      Siphon off as much orders as possible before the crisis ( worked ) and
      then have Airbus sitting there with few orders in the recuperation phase
      while Boeing could have merrily been working on their backlog?

      • I think you hit the nail on the head – Boeing instigated the mortgage bust to buy themselves a few years of extra certification time and to mess with Airbus’ masterplan.
        We can see that as the 787 is getting into full operation, the american economy seems to be recuperating while the Euro’s are still lagging behind – while Airbus starts struggling with the 350 certification…

        Coincidence? I think not!

      • leveraging is not creating. The inverted pyramid “play” whose tip was the mortgage bubble was destined to collapse.
        And if you look around abit you find that some had rather clear
        expectations for a collapse and voiced them ( where others “worked” the collapse). The money that was lost by participants was not destroyed but is now in the hands of “others” 😉

    • I think you are right, most customers don’t have any alternatives. The combination of A330, A350 and 777 could absorb some of the backlog (much later!), but that would really only come into play in the highly unlikely scenario that the 787 has to go back to the drawing board for a fundamental redesign.

      Depending on the outcome (and especially length) of the investigation, Boeing may lose some orders, but the bigger financial risk to the company is from additional penalties due to further deliver delays.

  5. We like to compare the Dreamliner to the Comet because the circumstances look similar. But the environment is totally different.

    All the de Havilland eggs were in the Comet basket. Boeing still has the 737 and 777, which are both hugely successful and can support Boeing over a long period. Also, and most importantly, by the time de Havilland fixed the problems, the Comet was already outclassed by the competition.

    Even without the crashes the Comet would not have survived for very long. It would have been crushed by the competition. The fast approaching 707 and DC-8 were in another league altogether. The Comet lacked both capacity and range, like many other British aircraft of the time.

    Capacity + Range = Sales is a formula the Americans understood before anyone else and that’s why they took the market for themselves. That story is more a commercial success than a technological one. The British, and later the French and Germans, had no limitations in terms of technical innovation. But they were weak when it came to the basics of business and customer satisfaction.

    It took the genius of Roger Beteille to rectify the situation and bring the Europeans back in the competition. And it is with Beteille’s heritage that Boeing is fighting today. But the basics of business and customer satisfaction may have caught with them this time around. The table has turned. Boeing is now investing in “shareholders value” instead of technology.

    The only substantial technological investment they have made in recent years is the Dreamliner. But if it is a commercial success it is also a financial disaster. And the technology itself is still questioned. In other words it is not proven like for example the 737 is.

    Even if the battery problem was solved there are no guarantees that other electrical problems would not surface later on. The composite structure is a first in commercial aviation and Boeing’s radical approach remains to be validated by years of operation in the airline environment before we can say for sure that it was the right choice.

    But make no mistake, Boeing has the means to address those issues. They can make the Dreamliner a success if they want to. And they do. But the corporate image they had created with the 707 and 747 is now tarnished by the 787 woes.

  6. Fall-out from the probe on the role of the FAA in all this may well cost Boeing the grandfather rights for the MAX. Certifying to new standards would immediately negate the advantage in seat count the MAX has over the NEO, just for starters.

    • KDX125, if that is true for the Boeing MAX, it would be true for the NEO, too, even though neither OEM has said anything about switching from Ni-Cad batteries to Li-Ions for those models.

      • You try to compare a 5% common parts grandfathered over three iterations certification to a 95% common parts certified enhancement.

  7. Rudy Hillinga Why is filling out these two lines a new equirement every time I write somethingScott?

    I now see the 787 financial burden on BCAC ($35 Bill) as being a serious threat
    to the Co., because in spite of the “money-making” 737 & 777 programs, those
    funds or now NOT available to produce successors to these a/p’s, in order to
    effectively compete with the A350 in the 2020’s

  8. Last year (or 2011?) Boeing said the program was still in a profitable position and they would write off investments over 1400 aircraft.

    Airbus Leahy boosted 800 A330 sales since the launch of the 787. Maybe w’ll see it right passing the 787 this year. Few would have predicted that 6-8 yrs back.

    Imagine Airbus would have introduced a simple reengined A330 NEO by the time the engines were ready, in 2008/09.. they are upping production to 10 a month.


    • Airbus wanted to do an A330neo, which they were going to call the A350. But market forces pushed them one step higher with the A350XWB. There are two consequences to that:

      1- The XWB gives Airbus a brand new platform which is one big notch above the old A300 platform.

      2- They still have the opportunity to offer a neo version of the 330 at any time. The A350XWB never scrapped the A330neo, it only put it on the back burner. It’s still warm and ready to be served to hungry customers.

  9. I think there is a small windfall for Boeing in 767 spare parts.
    A lot of the 787 orders are for 767 replacement, and the 767 is still the best ride around if you are flying steerage. So a lot of D checks may be on the horizon for 767 while 787 is sorted out.
    No hard facts, only gut feelings that the problem may unfortunately turn out to be far more complex than just the battery and its associated controls. A few A.netters appear to share this fear.

  10. Normand Hamel :
    The Dreamliner is a commercial success because Boeing sold more than 800 before the aircraft even made its first flight. And there has been very few cancellations despite all the problems.


    I have never understood all the folks who say it *IS* a success just because it has a lot of orders. (As a side-note, lots of people even used to say it was a *technological* success just because of the orders.)

    Sorry, but it is *not yet* a commercial success. It has the potential to be one, but until those orders are deliveries – and until those deliveries generate a significant profit – I don’t think it qualifies at all.

    • @ Someone

      If the CSeries had 800 firm orders before its maiden flight you would not hesitate to say that it is a commercial success, even at this stage, or especially at this stage, when no airplanes have been delivered yet.

      The Dreamliner is not only a commercial success, it is an unprecedented one. Does it mean the A380 is a commercial failure? Not at all. Does it mean the CSeries is not going anywhere? Not at all. Boeing was able to achieve such a triumph mainly for three reasons:

      1- Advance design by a reputed company.
      2- Selling price considered nothing less than a steal.
      3- Immense hype surrounding introduction.

      It’s an irresistible formula. And very few resisted. Was it a wise approach? No it was not. It was in fact the most foolish approach I have ever witnessed in commercial aviation. Bombardier could have done the same had they wanted . But they had learned their lesson in 2002 when they suddenly realized they had run out of cash.

      It was in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 when sales stopped abruptly. BBD had no cash reserves because like Boeing for the 787 they were selling the CRJ at ridiculously low prices. The CRJ was indeed a commercial success. And like the 787 today it was also a financial disaster, and for the same reason: the asking price.

      Question: Why did Boeing go that low (in terms of price)? Answer: Corporate arrogance. “We will show the world (Airbus) how to build an airplane! We can do it in three days! No one can touch us! We are the best and the greatest!” Can you hear the bombards, the trumpets and the whole tarantaran?

      Bombardier is keeping the price high and the sales low on the CSeries. They are proceeding cautiously. Almost with timidity, if not humility. They know they are now playing in the big league and they have enormous respect for the legacy teams. BBD will start production at a slow pace and learn how to build the aircraft. They will increase the production pace as the orders start to come in AFTER it will have proven itself in the air.

      Boeing could have done the same, but they had a statement to make: We will show Airbus who is the Boss!

      • Normand Hamel :
        If the CSeries had 800 firm orders before its maiden flight you would not hesitate to say that it is a commercial success, even at this stage, or especially at this stage, when no airplanes have been delivered yet.

        No! I really would hesitate to say that. In fact I would most definitely NOT say it.

        Maybe I’m just an engineer, but to me order ≠ sale, and sale ≠ money-in-bank until all payments are met and all items have changed hands. I would say exactly the same about the A350, A320NEO etc. These projects are looking good, will hopefully turn out to be successful, but right now there’s no way of knowing for sure until a large number of actual sales have been completed.

        The Dreamliner is not only a commercial success, it is an unprecedented one.

        Not trying to cause a flamefest here, but when one promises the Earth at half price, one will get a lot of customers lined up to take a number. It would be stupid not to when everyone else is willing to have a look. But they won’t all be queueing at the door when the wait gets too long or the product turns out to be less shiny and magical than suggested.

        Boeing got the numbers they did basically because they had a reputation – so airlines expected most of the promises would be realised. I believe the early prices and promises were unrealistic – especially with regards the 4-year development. They hyped CFRP to the skies, and I think they seriously oversold the material, so as a result Airbus was forced to follow suit (and dealing with that has paid my rent for the last few years).

        You say it was a commercial success and triumph, yet also a foolish approach and a financial disaster… Errr…?!

        I would say it was a massive exercise in marketing and hype, followed by some almighty stupid decisions and planning, followed by some serious problems and financial drains… but as a programme it is *STILL* too early to say if it is a success or a failure! I expect it will turn out to be a moderate success once all the chips are down. But probably not a “triumph”… and there’s still time for more problems to manifest which could drag it down to being moderately unsuccessful. We just have to wait and see.

  11. OK, if only for my understanding; what defines a commercial success.

    Going by comments above, it is not related to either sales, finances (or technology – which I can see my self)
    If it’s not about numbers sold or money made, then what is a commercial success?

    • So commercial success to you is another way of saying swindle the world and get out before you’re caught?

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