August 20, 2007

Boeing faces hurdles, opportunities on the road to an on-time 787 entry into service

According to multiple sources inside the 787 program, Boeing has delayed delivery of major structural parts for Dreamliner Two indefinitely as work feverishly continues on preparing Dreamliner One for its first flight this fall.

Put simply, there is a small bottleneck inside of Building 40-26 at the Boeing factory in Everett interfering with deliveries. Two of the four final assembly positions are in use. The first position in the rear of the factory is occupied by the Static Rig (ZY997), the second by Dreamliner One (ZA001).

Dreamliner One continues to undergo extremely extensive structural and systems assembly and is currently jacked up off its landing gear surrounded by scaffolding, making the forward movement to make way for the Static Rig difficult until it returns to pavement.

Dreamliner One undergoing extensive assembly in Everett

In addition, Flightblogger has learned that once deliveries do resume, the Fatigue Test Rig (ZY998) will be delivered prior to Dreamliner Two (ZA002).

Mary Hanson, spokeswoman for the 787 program confirmed that a change in the delivery schedule existed, “The 787 program has directed several structural partners to re-look at their ship dates on [Dreamliner Two] and complete systems, wiring and other critical installations before shipping to final assembly.”

Hanson added that the delay has nothing to do with Dreamliner One, and felt the characterization of the schedule change as a postponement or delay was not accurate, and that first flight, certification and entry into service are not affected by this decision. Hanson also declined to comment on the bottleneck inside Building 40-26.

According to sources, Boeing’s public stance on the delay is accurate with regard to the travel work; however the delay in deliveries is in part due to the around-the-clock singular focus of the final assembly team on preparing Dreamliner One for its maiden flight.

With Dreamliner One in its current position, there is no room in the rear of the factory to begin final assembly of the Fatigue Test Rig or Dreamliner Two. Delivery of Dreamliner Two structures from South Carolina, Kansas, Japan and Italy were all initially planned for an August 18 timeframe.

In addition, Dreamliner One still has yet to have its tail, engines, wing-body fairing, flaps and landing gear doors reinstalled following a comprehensive disassembly which occurred after the July 8th roll-out ceremony.

"Boeing is doing everything they can to finish the job but there are jobs that just cannot be sped up," said one Boeing employee with knowledge of the program.

Testing on the Static Rig needs to take place three doors down in Building 40-23, which is located between the 747 and 767 final assembly lines. Before the Static Rig can move to Building 40-23, Dreamliner One must be rolled out of the factory. The width of Building 40-26 is only large enough to accommodate one 787 at a time.

According to sources who have seen Boeing's internal schedules the Static Rig is tentatively scheduled to move out of 40-26 on August 23. The move will take place during the late night shift change just as it did for the appearance of Dreamliner One when it left the factory for the paint shop on June 25.

The indefinite delay of continued deliveries to Everett present a distinct problem for Boeing, which has an ambitious nine month flight test program planned. The test program will employ four aircraft (ZA001-ZA004) as the 787 Dreamliner seeks certification with Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engines for entry into service in May of 2008 with All Nippon Airways.

Without a second, third and fourth 787 to quickly join Dreamliner One on the rigorous flight test regime, Boeing will be hard-pressed to meet its May 2008 EIS goal. As an important point of comparison, the first and second 777 aircraft flew 32 days apart in 1994 and the third 777 followed just 22 days later. The 777, the last all-new Boeing aircraft, completed an eleven-month, five aircraft flight test certification program in April 1995. The 787 certification program will likely have to match or exceed the pace of aircraft introduction on the 777 program to meet its goals.

Facilities in Charleston and Wichita are working around-the-clock to prepare 787 fuselage sections for final assembly and delivery to Everett. The first 787 fuselage pieces delivered to Everett were almost entirely bare of systems and represented mainly the structural shell of the aircraft. Extensive "travel work" is being currently performed by the final assembly team in Everett to install wiring, ducting, insulation and systems for the first 787.

The indefinite delay in deliveries to Everett could also provide an opportunity for Boeing to test its groundbreaking business model. Boeing hopes that by delaying deliveries to Everett, they can allow the 787 subcontractors to more fully complete the assembly of follow-on aircraft fuselage sections.

Section 46 for ZY998 arrives in Charleston

The deferment of assemblies will allow for independent work to be done outside of Puget Sound, enabling the Everett-based final assembly and delivery team to continue its focus on Dreamliner One. Once Dreamliner One has been fully assembled, the follow-on fuselage structures can be joined in less time in hopes of keeping the flight test, certification and delivery on track.

Hanson added, “To allow traveled work to continue to flow from our partners into final assembly would deter the 787 program from setting up the Lean production system we envision. [The change] is necessary and will enable the program to get the right production system up and running over the long term.”

Another source, a veteran engineer of Boeing commercial aircraft programs, including the 787, is concerned about the planning moving forward.

“Boeing needs to look at the certification date and work backwards from those milestones looking at how to achieve this program goal by goal. Right now they are moving forward, but there’s no connection between milestones.”

Deliveries to sub-contractors are expected to continue with fuselage sections arriving in Charleston from Italy and Japan; however no timeline for the next deliveries appear to be in place.

The veteran engineer added, “There’s a lot of energy and time being wasted. Teams all over the globe are ready to work. The [Large Cargo Freighter] should be moving empty fixtures back to their respective partners' manufacturing locations. This could be done while Evergreen International flight crews are doing required training. Forward motion is essential - even if it’s slow progress, it’s still progress.”


Anonymous said...

great reporting, jon.

Anonymous said...

Excellent report. It was written without bias one way or the other, which makes it much more credible. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Another excellent and very informative report about the progress and the challenges the 787 program faces. I’ve been following your reports here and on and I just would like say to Jon how much I appreciate the great work you’re doing. Looking forward to some more excellent reporting. Jay from NL.

buffalobillski said...

DARN, you're good!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Obligatory - jon, you the greatest.

Now, does this not make one wonder if the 7/8/7 show-and-tell was misguided?

Did it reinforce the LEAN concepts?

What did it show the younger generation? Spout off prior to accomplishment (acknowledging that bragging after the fact is not good either)?

Also, could queuing up based upon design, analysis and projections be short-sighted?

Can we say that #1's lessons would not ripple down the whole chain in more than just an insignificant manner?

Would we like to hear the truth from the engineers?

Anonymous said...

Boeing ethics are alive and well. Lie, mislead, and deceive.

Perhaps we misheard them; did they say "On Track" or "On Crack."

Anonymous said...

nice pickup in the Seattle Times today

Anonymous said...

Everything I read here is typical of a project (of any size, but especially a very large project) approaching "crunch time". While the schedulers and project managers have known about the critical path(s) all along, the whole of the project team has assumed (as human beings always do) that it applied to someone else. Now it is coming home to them that _they_ are the weakest link and they not only need to get into 5th gear but they need to add a 6th gear to their transmission without stopping the car. This is very similar to what I saw leading up to first criticality of a new nuclear power plant in fact.

Will Boeing make their May/June dates? Only the senior project managers and executive management can even begin to guess on that at this point. Personally I thought that Boeing's schedule was a bit too ambitious given how many advances are included in this one frame. Then again I don't work for them and am not on the inside. But any talk that this project is "late", "collapsing", or "a clown show" is itself ridiculous.


Tim Perkins said...

Jon, do you know anything about some 787's being flown to San Antonio at some point in the future for some testing?

I got a tip about this and details were sorely lacking. Sorry about the vagueness of the question.

Anonymous said...

Strange proceedings indeed. Has there been another instance where Boeing has found it necessary to remove/disassemble the vertical stabilizer of the "maiden aircraft" of a commercial development program once it had been formally "rolled-out?"


Anonymous said...

San Antonio is correct and it has been in the press. SAT will be doing interior wiring work, among other things.

Anonymous said...


Not that I am aware of. Boeing rolled out an unwired airplane. Pretty rediculous and all for show.

ScarletHarlot said...

Cool Jon, the Seattle Times quoted you today! Hope you are well.

Anonymous said...

Will the 787 go to Williams Gateway Airport for hot testing and DEN for the high testing?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jon,
The bottleneck in the 40-26 you refer to is a non-issue. The landing gear on A/P 1 is fully functional and the airplane can be rolled out - and back in if needed. The jacking and scaffolding is for the purpose if replacing temporary fasteners. Since that is wrapping up, the plane can be moved just about anytime now.
The plan has always been to get fully stuffed sections from the partners. Boeing is having htem hold on to them until they can get the most stuffing they have available.

Oh, and I haven't heard anything about an under the cover of darkness move for the static plane. They will move it when it's ready to go - which should also be fairly soon.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for keeping us updated! I have to say that I really enjoy your work, both here and over on Its obvious that the 787 is facing some issues and hopfully they can be solved quickly. Best Regards, (EI321)

adam said...

Being someone that works in continuous improvement and someone who is always spounting off the benefits of lean manufacturing, the empty shell roll out probably should not have happened in my opinion. Even more so considering how often Boeing is shown in Lean manufacturing materials. To put the plane together, take it apart is a truly wasteful process, regardless of how much was actually missing on 7/8/7. How much it actually impacted the schedule is probably not significant, but it sure doesn't seem like Boeing's well known philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Quote: "spounting off the benefits of lean manufacturing, the empty shell roll out probably should not have happened in my opinion."
I seriously think the once in a decade opportunity to utilize the 7/8/7 date was of a greater value in publicity than a value to lean manufacturing. Besides, the first of anything is not used in the practice of lean manufacturing since it is considered the baseline. We can only go up from there!

Anonymous said...

As of last Sunday, the factory was removing a major titanium frame member at a butt splice. It was discovered that it wasn't made to specifications. And there just finding this out now?

That's what you get when Boeing makes a statement in the 787 Lean Manufacturing Program that, "Quality Inspection isn't value added"! Not sure where the FAA is on this.

Pushing production to roll out an incomplete aircraft on a date that coincides with the model number was the dumbest thing Boeing has ever done. That decision alone has cost the program millions of dollars in rework and probably delayed the project at least six months.

Add to that, all the other new and untried programs and systems that are being used in the build process, was a recipe for disaster, when trying to build a new aircraft in record time.

The new "paperless" recording and validation program called Velocity, used to assist the assembler in the build process doesn't work and only adds to the problems.

Boeing management has fumbled this program badly and should be held accountable for the gross incompetence but we all know corporate America doesn't work this way. Hell, give them a raise and bonus!

Jon said...

Who ever left the 1:57pm comment please email me at flightblogger (at) gmail (dot) com at your convenience.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

QUOTE "...a butt splice. It was discovered that it wasn't made to specifications. And there just finding this out now?..."

In fact, yes - we are always finding this out now. That is why a non-conformance and MRB process exists. We have a team of people that do just that. Fix problems. This writer must have an N on his badge (less than 3 years at Boeing).

To say "Quality Inspection isn't value added" needs to be followed up with the statement - "When quality is built into the product". The FAA is fully on-board with the process.

Velocity is slowly coming up to the task. It is a system new to commercial A/P's, but has been in use for years at other Boeing sites. Given the advantage of instant fixes and revisions, I'll take it over any other system any day.
The shear volume of planning required to build a jetliner IS currently overwelming the system (and the people to a great degree) but these truly are just growing pains.

Yes - this could have been managed better - at all levels. No one anticipated the amount of travelled work that would show up, and shame on them for missing it.

That said, a whole lot of people are working a whole lot of hours to get it right. I applaud them.

Anonymous said...

The structural work alone on #1 will last at least till the end of the year in my opinion. Unless fasteners start falling from the sky. Look on the bright side. Airbus was 2 years late, and they're still in business.
The problems start in the training, get everyone certified to do everything hydraulics,wiring,structures, etc. before they have proven they can do anything. Recipie for disaster hundrends of unexperienced, low-paid works who think they have the right to inspect they're own work.

Anonymous said...

Seattle times reports that further delays will be announced on wednesday, stay tuned.