September 19, 2007

Some Required Viewing

Whatever your take on the conclusions Rather draws, this is a part of the story of this airplane one way or another. Please view and discuss.

Dan Rather's HDNet Report on the safety of the 787

Whatever your reaction to this is, you need to read the following as well.

Safety of Composite 787 questioned; Airbus sides with Boeing
By Scott Hamilton

An engineer fired by Boeing under disputed circumstances charges in an 11 page letter to the Federal Aviation Administration that Boeing’s new 787 composite structure isn’t as safe as the traditional aluminum. The engineer charges composites aren’t as crash-worthy as aluminum and will produce toxic fumes in a fire. Airbus, Boeing’s bitter competitor, says the engineer’s fears don’t measure up.

September 18, 2007

Some Required Reading

I've been away on a much needed extended vacation and lots happened this weekend. Section 44 and 46 for Dreamliner Three arrived from Italy wrapped in black plastic on Tuesday. Sections 43, 45/11 are expected early in the morning on Wednesday from Japan. Flight is operating as EIA5186.

While I stepped away there was a lot of news about the 787. Here's a good rundown if you missed any of it:

Boeing's Tall Order: On-Time 787
Wall Street Journal
By J. Lynn Lunsford
Boeing Co.'s top leaders say it is possible to overcome a nearly four-month delay in the 787 Dreamliner program and deliver the first jet on time in May. Industry observers and a number of the plane's suppliers say it would be the aerospace equivalent of hitting a hole in one on a golf course.
Fired engineer calls 787's plastic fuselage unsafe
Seattle Times
By Dominic Gates
A former senior aerospace engineer at Boeing's Phantom Works research unit, fired last year under disputed circumstances, is going public with concerns that the new 787 Dreamliner is unsafe.
Fastner problem could prove longer term hindrance to Boeing
Flight International
By Stephen Trimble

A deeper and more widespread fastener shortage than previously thought may continue to hamper 787 production long after the first aircraft is fully assembled and in flight test.

One mildly self-indulgent news item:

A jet to help Boston's dreams take off
The Boston Globe
By Peter J Howe
When Boeing Co.'s new 787 Dreamliner jet takes to the skies sometime this winter, it will represent an envelope-pushing engineering triumph for everything from fuel efficiency to advanced composite materials.

It also will represent Boston's first hope in years for getting regular nonstop service to China, India, and East Asia. By dint of its size and range - and its ability to take off from Logan International Airport's biggest runways with a full load of fuel - the 787 is expected to be the first jet that airlines can profitably fly nonstop between Boston and major Asian cities.
And a little (very important) historical context:

Making it Fly: Boeing 757
Seattle Times (1983)
By Peter Rinearson

September 15, 2007

A Busy Weekend Ahead

There's a busy weekend ahead for the LCFs. N747BA (LCF1) was spotted at PAE on Friday loading shipping fixtures for this weekend's trip to Japan and N780BA (LCF2) is in Charleston prepping for it's trip to Italy. Both LCFs are expected to leave their respective bases Saturday or Sunday and are scheduled to return around 1pm on Monday, September 17 in Charleston.

LCF2 will deliver Sections 44 and 46 from Grottaglie. Look for the outbound leg to operate as EIA5162 and return as EIA5127.

LCF1 will deliver Sections 45, 11 and 43 from Nagoya. The outbound leg to Japan should operate at EIA5109 and return as EIA5186.

When assembled together, these sections will make up the center fuselage of Dreamliner Three. Currently fuselage parts are scattered across the US. Section 41 is under construction in Wichita and Section 47 and 48 are being assembled in Charleston.

In addition, the center fuselage for Dreamliner Two is making great progress in Charleston. Work continues installing the key ceiling brackets that will hold the wiring, environmental control systems and ducting. Delivery to Everett is set for those first two weeks in October. Keep an eye out for Dreamliner Two to possibly be the first to fly, followed very closely by Dreamliner One. I am working to confirm this.

I too will be busy this weekend and don't anticipate being able to update in a significant way for several days. Feel free use the comments section here as an open thread for discussion. Not to worry, I haven't forgotten, the 747-8 update will be arriving shortly.

September 11, 2007

Tweaking The Schedule, Part Two

All is quiet tonight in Everett.

Dreamliner One is still off of its landing gear. ZY997 can't move to Building 40-23. The delay in first flight has reduced the urgency of the move. However, if the urgency was the same the aircraft would be unable to move. The spotting opportunity to see ZA001 and ZY997 together should come soon however.

As a result of the bottleneck preventing an assembly space from opening in Building 40-26, the delivery of ZY998, the Fatigue Airframe, has been postponed an additional 10 days. Shipment to Washington was originally planned for September 20. The delivery to Everett is now expected around September 30.

The pair of LCFs will be working this weekend. All major structures for the center fuselage of LN3/ZA003 will arrive from Japan and Italy on Sunday, September 16. They are scheduled to arrive at CHS within 45 minutes of one another. Parts forLN4/ZA004 should be arriving in Charleston two weeks after.

September 10, 2007

Riddle Me This, Part Five in a Series

This was WAY overdue.
L/N 23:
Q: 35 00 N, 105 00 E 90 Degrees
A: China Eastern

L/N 24:
Q: "You want me to chuck a crustacean onto a plastic doll?!"

L/N 25:
Q: Perhaps the most notoriously bureaucratic airline in the world, let alone the subcontinent.
A: Air India

L/N 26:
Q: Please refrain from yelling "Free Eritrea!" at the crew.
A: Ethiopian Airlines

L/N 27:
Q: When I go to bed at night, I like to sleep under a nice down comforter.
A: QANTAS or Jetstar

So that's LN 1 to 27. Lots of 787s, lots of airlines.

Look for my first update about the 747-8 later this week. Flightblogger is branching out.

September 9, 2007

September 9, 2007



Structural work is the primary task continuing on Dreamliner One in Everett. The aircraft is still off of its landing gear and surrounded by scaffolding. Doors three and four are not yet reattached. Once structural work is completed wiring and systems installation will commence. First flight is scheduled to take place between Mid-November and Mid-December. The structural work as well as flight control software development has delayed the first flight.

Image Courtesy the Boeing Company
The Static Airframe is scheduled to move to Building 40-23 on September 11. Though it appears that target may be changed due to the delay in first flight. One source stated, "With the delay in first flight, there is no reason to hurry the static test." The vertical tail has yet to be attached and the aircraft is still surrounded by scaffolding. Doors three and four still have yet to be installed. During the September 5 update Bair and Carson said the static airframe would move, "Later this month."


Final assembly is set to begin in Everett around September 20. Center and aft fuselages assembly are wrapping up in Charleston. The delivery date will depend in part on the movement of ZY997 to free up an assembly position in the rear of Building 40-26.

Once the fatigue rig (ZY998) is shipped to Everett, work in Charleston will refocus on Dreamliner Two. The center fuselage was moved from cell 10 to cell 20 last week to continue installing the stuffing. The center fuselage is expected to ship with the doors installed. Shipment to Washington is scheduled to take place on or around October 9.

First word on follow on shipment is slowly materializing. Production is ramping up quickly at Charleston and assembly on the center fuselage for ZA003 is expected to begin around September 16. ZA004 assembly will begin two weeks following the arrival of ZA003, and ZA005 will begin two weeks after that.


Lastly, if anyone has direct knowledge of what's going on in Kansas, Italy or Japan please feel free to get in touch with me. It would be helpful to provide an even more complete picture of the program.

September 5, 2007

Update Rundown: First Flight Delayed

The conference call ended a little while ago and I wanted to give a rundown of what we heard.

It's worth noting that this writer attempted to ask a question on the call and was blocked from doing so.

Now to the key points:

- First flight has been delayed. It is expected to take place somewhere between Mid-November and Mid-December. Entry into service is still set for May 2008.

- The cause of the delay is two parts. Problem was first reported here at Flightblogger.
1. Temporary fasteners
- Lack of documentation
- Unavailability of permanent fasteners.
- 700something left to be installed.

2. Flight control software
- It's just not ready yet and working with Honeywell to resolve issues.

- Carson: A 1-3 month delivery day will not carry financial penalties.

- Aeroflot finalized its order for 787 bringing the total orders to 706

- Trent 1000 engines certified August 8. GENx certification program is proceeding.

- Once the flight test program begins a new aircraft will join 2-3 weeks. Testing will happen 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There is almost no buffer left.

- Boeing confirmed the re-sequencing of deliveries. The fatigue test will jump in front of Dreamliner Two which is now set to arrive in October.

- Static test rig will move to 40-23 later this month.

Conference Call Coverage - 11:03 AM

Glen Farley: Which problem is biggest contributor to delay?

"It's a horse race to see who will contribute to the delay most."


Conference Call Coverage - 11:01 AM

What's going on at Alcoa? Removing temporaries causing damage?

"Working with Alcoa on a daily, hourly basis to get the fasteners we need. The set up puts out one wad of bolts at a time. Substitute (flightworthy) fasteners being used, they however add weight to the aircraft."

"700something fasteners left to install."

What type of new tests for 787?

Composite material testing. Standard certification testing is ahead of us. More electric architecture is being tested with really good results."

Conference Call Coverage - 10:50 AM

Dominic Gates: Have you located everything you've needed to locate on Dreamliner One? What about damage when removing the parts?

"Not indicative of follow on aircraft. No worries about how follow on aircraft will be. Partners are focused. Under size fasteners used as to not damage structure."


"1-3 month delay would have little impact on contracts."

Conference Call Coverage -10:44 AM

Fasteners missing, how many?

"Thousands not installed or unavailable. Primary problems in wings and center wing box."

Conference Call Coverage - 10:38 AM

"Less than half of flying is for certification. It's for our own information purposes. Four planes flying by early 2008."

Is the electronic tracking systems broken?

"No. All the digital tools have done what we've expected them to. The airplane goes together perfectly. We didn't digitally simulate missing thousands of fasteners."

Conference Call Coverage - 10:31 AM

James Wallace: What's up with the documentation work? Time line for aircraft entry to the test program?

"You can't do anything on an airplane if you don't have paperwork. Fasteners jumbled up the way the airplane was put together. You can't rush it, you gotta get it right."

"Follow on airplanes will go into flight test program every two to three weeks."

Conference Call Coverage - 10:27 AM

How do you intend to keep your credibility? (first A380 comparison)

"Tell the world exactly what's going on with the program. You won't know what you have to deal with until you have to deal with it. We'll get this airplane in the air, and we'll get to flight test."

Conference Call Coverage - 10:22 AM

When will the supply chain be fully ready?

"We're focused on modular build. 10-20 units before we get the work re-sequenced."

Conference Call Coverage - 10:19 AM


Flight test sequence for program?

"Unchanged, this delay is eating into the buffer that was built in to the program."

Higher speed flight. 24/7 Flight test program to be expected.

What extent did the roll out add to current challenges?

"Roll out NOT a factor. We didn't have a handle on it until it showed up in the factory."

Conference Call Coverage - 10:15 AM

Flight Control System

To be delivered later this month. Working with Honeywell and adding resources to ensure that all challenges are met.

Accomplishments and Weight Status:

Static rig will move to 40-23 late this month.
Trent 1000s certified August 8, GENx coming alone nicely.
Some partners have already started work on airplane 10.
RTO brake tests goals met.

Weight production plans. LN7 will be on the scales at target weight next year.

Now open to questions.

Conference Call Coverage - 10:10 AM


Major Issues

Traveled work
Two factors
1. Global fastener shortage
2. Documentation didn't match what arrived from suppliers.

3rd airplane will be fatigue test. Delivery in October confirmed.

Conference Call Coverage - 10:07 AM

Delivery date is still planned for May 2008. "We intend to perform for that commitment."

Mike Bair is taking over.

Conference Call Coverage - 10:06 AM

Scott Carson:

New Single year sales record for the 787. 706 total orders. "Immersed in the hard work of building an airplane."

2 Primary Issues

Traveled work
Flight control systems


Conference Call Coverage - 10:02 AM

Yvonne Leach has just opened the conference call. Here we go.

Conference Call Coverage - 9:57 AM

9:57am EDT

Good morning all.

I just joined the call and was welcomed by the sound of elevator music. By my watch, this should be getting underway in the next three minutes. In case you missed it, James Wallace at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer published an article today detailing that the first flight may slip to November. Most notably He confirmed the content of the piece I published Tuesday:

In addition to this travel work that shifted from partners to final assembly in Everett, the large composite 787 sections of the first plane arrived in Everett with tens of thousands of temporary fasteners because of an industrywide fastener shortage.

They must all be replaced with permanent ones before the plane can fly. That has become far more time-consuming than Boeing initially thought.

One issue is the time it is taking mechanics in Everett to locate many of the temporary fasteners. They are supposed to be painted red for easy identification.

But Boeing has had to follow a tedious paper trail to document where many of the temporary fasteners were placed by its partners.

Jon Ostrower, who runs an aviation Web site called Flightblogger, posted a story Tuesday that quoted sources as saying that the removal of the temporary fasteners damaged some of the composite parts of the aircraft, causing time-consuming repairs.

Sources confirmed the report to the P-I.

My Chat With Addison Schonland

I sat down with Addison Schonland tonight to talk about the 787 program. Addison runs the excellent IAG Blog. It's definitely worth the subscription.

You can listen to our conversation here.

September 4, 2007

Temporary Fasteners Causing Major Problems for 787 Program

According to sources with direct knowledge at both ends of the major sub-assembly supply chain, temporary parts, including fasteners, are causing significant slow downs in the 787 program.

The source of the slowdown in progress on Dreamliner One originated in the rush to meet the July 8th roll out. The push to achieve this milestone forced supply chain partners to use over-the-counter parts and prevented assembly teams from being able to document the location of these temporary fasteners on the first 787.

Boeing has previously acknowledged that temporary fasteners would be required on early 787 airframes while a shortage of flightworthy fasteners was being remedied. Flightblogger has learned that many of the temporary fasteners, which were painted red and installed in place of flightworthy parts, were purchased from run-of-the-mill chain hardware stores, including Home Depot and Ace Hardware.

The use of hardware store parts has been confirmed by multiple sources working directly with the aircraft at assembly sites in both Everett, Wa. and Charleston, S.C.

As a result, Boeing must now comb through the aircraft to locate, document and replace all of the temporary fasteners to prevent a single non-flightworthy fastener from flying.

The slowdown is occurring at several different levels.

The first is the difficulty in identifying where these fasteners were installed on the aircraft. All fasteners have to meet FAA conformity standards and engineering requirements for flight worthiness. A record, or travel tag, is required to show that the installation was authorized by an engineer based on the temporary nature of the part. According to sources directly involved with the program, no concrete or consistent documentation existed for fasteners on large portions of Dreamliner One.

Without adequate documentation, assembly teams in Everett have had to allocate significant resources for identifying and replacing the temporary fasteners.

The second is the challenge in physically replacing the parts. “Composite only like fasteners installed once,” according to one source working directly with the aircraft.

When it came time to install flightworthy fasteners, the removal of the temporary fasteners damaged some of the composite parts of the aircraft causing time-consuming repairs.

For example, the vertical tail was removed following roll out and reattached on August 26 after undergoing composite repairs.

As of print date, Boeing continues to progress with structural work as Dreamliner One prepares for its flight test program. Wiring and systems installation have not yet begun.

The replacement of the fasteners is an example of the type of “traveled work” that is necessary on Dreamliner One. Because all work has to be documented and accounted for electronically, Boeing has employed the VELOCITY system to track the assembly process. Engineers and mechanics who are working directly with Dreamliner One have found the paperless work environment an impediment to progress.

One veteran engineer put it this way, “Boeing has missed a fundamental element in Lean Manufacturing. When building and assembling the aircraft in VELOCITY, the paperless assembly environment system shouldn’t be something that creates more work for us."

Though the process may be difficult, according to another source working directly with Dreamliner One, “Progress is slow, but steady.”

The third challenge is that when Boeing conceived the global supply chain for the Dreamliner it never envisioned having to assemble a completely bare aircraft with temporary parts in Everett. The sections would arrive stuffed with flightworthy fasteners, systems, ducting, wiring and insulation from Italy, Japan, Kansas and South Carolina. The first Dreamliner arrived completely bare.

Sources say the fastener issue is indicative of a larger fundamental problem in the global supply chain.

“Traceability to the source [of manufacturing] is something that is missing in this program. When you receive a travel tag from a partner and it is written in Japanese with English subtitles it sure makes you wonder if something got lost in translation,” remarked one Boeing engineer.

An assessment by one Boeing veteran engineer of how to avoid these problems in the supply chain was unequivocal,

“Boeing needs to create a server based system that all the partners can log onto and sign off the work they complete. This way when [the part] finally ends up at the next partner or here in Everett, we can see what tasks were not completed. This would also keep any ‘lost in translation’ tags from getting through the system. There has to be a direct line of communication at all levels. You can’t put an aircraft through final assembly in three days in Everett if the documentation takes you three months.”

When approached about this situation, Boeing 787 Communications spokesperson Yvonne Leach declined to comment or provide details in the lead up to a program update late this week.

Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] Commercial Airplanes Chief Scott Carson and 787 Program Manager Mike Bair are hosting a conference call with media, investors and analysts on the morning of September 5th to provide a comprehensive update on progress.

Flightblogger has learned that a delay of first flight will be announced. The specific length of that delay is currently unknown.

Even with a potential delay looming, internally at manufacturing and assembly sites around the United States, sources describe the overall quality of the design as excellent.

“Boeing and its partners have taken on a huge responsibility to their customers and the millions of travelers who fly on their products. To build an aircraft of this caliber you need to build it with the best the aerospace industry can provide. Boeing hired the best minds to design the new 787 and they hired the best minds to put in place a world class lean manufacturing team. The issue has been one of execution.”

However, at sub-assembly plants such as Global Aeronautica in Charleston, less experienced workers whose expertise lie outside of the aerospace industry are being relied upon to assemble and inspect major structural components of the aircraft.

The veteran engineer added, “[Boeing] allowed their partners to use unskilled technicians to build the assemblies. The 787 Dreamliner should be built by the best the aerospace industry has to offer. What seems to have happened here is that Boeing has built a house starting from the roof down. Any time you build anything as complicated as the 787 you need to build a good base and work up from there. All the best engineering and planning are nothing without the skill and dedication of seasoned professionals who give so much of themselves to build what we all hope will one day be the safest and most economical aircraft in the world.”

The veteran engineer concluded, “No problem is insurmountable. This is a wonderful airplane. These problems can be overcome. There has to be a reckoning about the realities of what it will take to ensure that this program gets off the ground safely and successfully.”