Pace increases for 787 return to service

Multiple signs are pointing to the increasing pace for the return to service for the Boeing 787, but a top company official dodged a question yesterday on the timing.

Aviation Week reports that Boeing’s 787 simulators are being fired up again, having been idled for months during the grounding. This comes on the heels this week of a report that ANA is re-training its 787 pilots with an eye toward resuming service in June. There is also a report that Boeing has dispatched to the field engineers ready to begin installing the battery fix once federal approval is received.

But Pat Shanahan, VP of Aircraft Programs, wouldn’t speculate about the timeline about certification.

“Sooner rather than later,” he said during a press gaggle after opening the Everett Delivery Center yesterday. “I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear. The testing is going very well. The regulators will ultimately determine that timeline. It’s very close.”

16 Comments on “Pace increases for 787 return to service

  1. Could the new P100 panels be the solution to the 787 “ghost?” Boeing seem very confident they have this thing beat, they just seem very shy in explaining why. Might be because the original panel on the 50 delivered aircraft was not as good as it should have been.

    • A fire caused by a P100 panel nearly brought down a 787 in November 2010. Boeing claimed the problem was minor and fixed (“foreign object debris” and a software patch).

      Two battery fires later (plus who knows how many in-flight P100-related power problems), and at least two torched GPUs later, and they are apparently finally replacing the design.

      Boeing delivered 50 aircraft with a known fault they previously claimed to have addressed. And the FAA let them get away with it. Now both Boeing and the FAA are trying to fix as much of the faulty electrical system as they can under the guise of isolated battery problems before the public realizes how much their combined incompetence and complacency risked 787 passengers’ lives.

  2. Well lets hope all is going well. Pat learned to be more carefull forwarding market messages, he is right, its up to the regulators.

    • ““Sooner rather than later,” he said during a press gaggle after opening the Everett Delivery Center yesterday. “I know that’s not the answer you wanted to hear. The testing is going very well. The regulators will ultimately determine that timeline. It’s very close.”

      I think quotes like this over the last month, or so, were sometimes misinterpreted as Boeing “pressuring” the regulators. The additional test flights we have been seeing could very well be the result of push back from the FAA. While not so great for Boeing’s bottom line over the next several years, this is ultimately in Boeing’s best interest.

  3. Aviation Week:

    The pilot rehearsal gets under way as Boeing continues engineering tests of a revised power panel design on Line No. 86, the aircraft also designated to conduct the upcoming battery certification demonstration flight for the FAA. The power panel testing is designed to tackle in-service issues with the 787’s complex electrical system and is unrelated to the battery modification, says Boeing.

    The current ground-testing phase continues to focus on the evaluation of the modified battery system and involves heavy use of the 787 Integration Test Vehicle (ITV), a 75-ton hybrid test rig at Boeing Field. The ITV incorporates flight control and hydraulic systems, linked to test benches of systems software. For ground checks of the battery, the ITV is thought to be interconnected with other nearby laboratories and test facilities that will simulate the electrical loads to be tested in the flight.

    Ground tests of the battery will culminate with the deliberate over-charging of a battery and all eight of the unit’s cells simultaneously to demonstrate the ability of the new enclosure to handle a full-blown thermal runaway of the battery.

  4. CBS money watch:

    Boeing (BA) said it has finished more than half of the testing on its proposed battery fix for the 787, with the rest of the ground and flight tests coming in the next several days.

    Ground testing is continuing at Boeing labs in Seattle. Boeing is giving results to the FAA as they are finished.

    The testing has been taking longer than Boeing had originally suggested when it announced the fix for the 787’s smoldering batteries on March 15.

    “We are all working toward returning the 787 fleet to service in the most expeditious manner possible, but we are being thorough and won’t shortcut the test and certification process,” Birtel said in a written statement.

    Boeing said a 787 test flight on Wednesday was unrelated to testing its battery fix. The flight was a “routine test flight designed to address some of the component reliability projects” it has been working on, the company said. A demonstration flight for the battery fix “will take place in the coming days,” Boeing said.

  5. It is about time, Boeing got it right this time-both the battery protection and the power panels. More than any thing, hope they have learnt lessons -both on the engineering design, planning and supply chain quality/intergration processes. The have lost at least six months of valuable lead time in my view to Airbus (from the battery fiasco and about 3 years on 787), which is sitting pretty -both on neo and the upcoming widebody portfolio , though they have to deliver as well.
    Boeing would do well to take product decisions faster and not dither a la Max ( launch the 777 x and 787-10 ) and execute them ; even with that , the widebody fight with Airbus would be more even now , with A 350 series.
    The stockmarket seems to have priced in , all that expectations .

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

    Altogether “a very messy start” Mr. Boeing, due to pour attention to detail, of what
    is a revolutionary new airplane in every other way you look at it!

  7. Matt Cawby over on the Paine Field Blog seems to be hinting that a 787 flight over eastern Washington, with the FAA, could be happening sometime today.

    We will see.

  8. Mike Bohnet :<PWhile not so great for Boeing’s bottom line over the next several years, this is ultimately in Boeing’s best interest.

    Assuming this is the case, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Scott, I find your heading to be slightly (unintentionally) misleading. All the signs here still indicate that commercial flights will not be flown by ANA until June. That is still 2 months away and hardly jibes with Boeing’s assertions in mid March, that it would be a matter of weeks.

    I see this as another failure by Boeing to either communicate truthfully (accurately) or to just get it right (with the timing).

    • I disagree with Aero. The headline reflects the increasing pace of activity: Boeing activates the simulators. Boeing dispatching field personnel. Flight tests. ANA starting re-training.

      In February at the PNAA conference, I predicted the 787s should be back in service in 90-120 days. That timeline looks about right. The pace is picking up. The headline is correct.

      • I also don’t see anything misleading. Things are gathering pace, and barring something unforeseen happening (another battery fire on the ground etc.) the grounding is probably going to be lifted soon. There seems to be a dynamic developing.

  9. An open question would be who actually is in charge of setting any pace. The manufacturer, having to provide a proof of concept and safety or the authorities acting because the first two items are still in question. I vote for the latter.

    What implications would a final NTSB report have by the way? Does anyone still care or are we already looking at the pace the PR departments like to see?

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