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After power-on, what's next for 787?

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Image Courtesy The Boeing Company

The completion of the 787 first power-on sets the stage for the next phase of the Dreamliner's march toward first flight. The milestone was met to the day according to sources familiar with the schedule.

The initial power-on testing began on June 11 and wrapped up yesterday. The testing, according to one program source, went more smoothly than initially anticipated. The program staffer stated that, "This is one thing [Boeing] thought was going to be a major issue in our program." The staffer added that Boeing never expected problems to crop up in the supply chain.

Gauntlet testing is next on the agenda for Dreamliner One. The aircraft's computer system will be fooled into thinking its flying to simulate every imaginable phase of flight, as well as a myriad of potential failures.

"That's really when the fun starts, we can really see how stable the airplane is. So, are there any problems that need to be resolved?" 787 VP and General Manager Pat Shanahan said in mid-May. "Guess what, there will be lots of those," he added. "And the idea is none of them will be severe...I expect people run in every half hour and they'll drop their grenade, then we'll dispatch the right people and we'll go resolve those issues."

For months, Boeing had planned its timeline around the completion of first power-on for ZA001. With this task now complete, the fatigue aircraft (ZY998) will be moved this evening (June 20) to the 767 line, then later to the fatigue rig for testing. The open assembly station will allow ZA002 and ZA003 to move to the third and second assembly stations respectively.

This will be the first line move since April 25 when ZY997, the static test airframe, was moved to Building 40-23.  At the rear of Building 40-26, a vacancy on the line will now be created.

Before the end of the month, Boeing will see the arrival of the final major structural sections for ZA004 and the commencement of final assembly operations. The third Dreamlifter will make its way to the US next week and immediately enter service, being tasked with the delivery of the center fuselage section from Charleston. In addition, the forward fuselage Section 41 will also be delivered from Wichita.

The center fuselage section for Dreamliner Four (ZA004) was perhaps the primary victim of program delays more than any other, having spent more than nine months in Charleston being assembled since September 2007. Boeing held deliveries at structural partners to reduce the level of travelled work that was flowing to Everett. The delivery of the center fuselage marks a turning point for the program as integration times in Charleston will have peaked and will drop for subsequent airframes.

Dreamliner Four in Charleston, SC - June 12, 2008

By the time the final center fuselage section (ZA006) is delivered for the flight test program later this summer, integration time is expected to be roughly 1/3 of what it was for ZA004, according to program sources.

All the major structural suppliers: Spirit, Vought, Alenia, Fuji, Kawasaki and Mitsubishi have begun manufacturing roughly the entire complement of Boeing's 2009 787 deliveries. The number of shipsets produced ranges between 19 and 22 with varying levels of completion.

Earlier this week, the first horizontal stabilizer for Dreamliner Five arrived in Everett laying the groundwork for Boeing to see Dreamliner One off of the final assembly line. With only four available assembly stations, ZA001 will be moved to a slant two doors down on the 767 line in Building 40-24 to wrap up factory completion before moving to the flight line late this summer.

Section 47/48 for Dreamliner Five (right) and Dreamliner Six (left) in Charleston, SC - June 12, 2008

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