August 2012

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Boeing nears San Antonio activation as priority 787s emerge

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787-Ramp_560.jpgBoeing is set to activate its 787 change incorporation facility in San Antonio, Texas, offering a much-need a release valve for the pressure of the near-overflowing ramp in Everett.

Tucked into a growing number of spots around Paine Field - including rented hangars, closed taxiways and newly-built ramps - are nearly 30 787s at various states of completion with more than 140,000 open assembly jobs requiring completion, say program sources.

Among those is Airplane 23, the first production GEnx-1B-powered 787 and the first in the colors of Japan Airlines to fly. Following its planned first flight, which could come as early as March 1, say company sources, Airplane 23, also known as ZA177, will ferry to Texas, activating the facility that is expected to employ at least 400.

Initially, the Boeing Aerospace Support Center at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio was due to support refurbishment and change incorporation of just the first six test aircraft, however as of early 2008, officials in San Antonio said the facility would support 'at least 20' 787s, though as required change incorporation has expanded significantly in recent years, that figure is almost certainly set to rise. Further, company sources indicate that 747-8s will be refurbished in Texas as well.

In addition, Boeing has expanded its lease from three to four hangars at Aviation Technical Services at the south end of Paine Field to perform rework and change incorporation as aircraft are readied locally for delivery.

In Everett, the amount of outstanding work continues to grow faster than it shrinks with the arrival every other week of a new 787 airframe, though the acceleration of open jobs has slowed as shipsets arrive at a higher level of completion, say those inside the factory. 

As it moves closer to extended twin-engine operations (ETOPS) testing and system functionality and reliability validations (F&R) later this year - a specific timeline of which has not been provided - 787 vice president and general manager Scott Fancher says the specific delivery phasing of the first delivered 787s has not yet been decided as early production aircraft are added to the effort.

Guiding that selection is establishment of the final production configuration, which is driven by required design changes that come out of the flight test effort.

However, program sources suggest Airplanes Seven through Nine, 23, 24 and 31 and on have been elevated in priority for delivery in 2011, with the remaining airframes between 20 and 29 to be mixed in as they are completed.

The first 787 will be delivered to Japan's All Nippon Airways in the third quarter, the first of an estimated 12 to 20 of the composite aircraft handed over this year. Airplanes Seven through Nine, 24 and 31 are all assigned to ANA. Air India has also said it expects its first 787 in 2011

Boeing declined to discuss any details of its delivery plan, saying "We work with each customer on a one-on-one basis to define the delivery timing that makes sense for them. As we have said in the past, the sequencing of deliveries will not be the same as their production sequence."

Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner ZA235

Inside Boeing's 787 final assembly line, part shortages and rework for parts such as flaps, still continue, though the line is beginning to display elements of its originally intended sequence with production aircraft being powered on during assembly operations. Airplane 31 at factory position four closest to the front hangar door, was slated to be the first production 787 activated in flow.

Additionally, Fancher says the updated first production power panels - the byproduct of the 9 November electrical fire - arrived in Everett from supplier Hamilton Sundstrand on the weekend of February 12. Additionally, the company has also received the first 'Package B' Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines as well, which required further updates following the August uncontained failure on the test stand in Derby, UK and engine surge in New Mexico in September.

Overall, Fancher says the company is 80% done with certification testing of the Rolls-Royce powered 787s, and 60% on the General Electric-powered models.

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