787 to fly ‘by the end of the year’

Boeing announced that the first flight of the troubled 787 Dreamliner is now “expected by the end of 2009”.

August 27: Boeing announced that the first flight of the troubled 787 Dreamliner is now “expected by the end of 2009”, with the first delivery in the “fourth quarter of 2010”.

The company has been under pressure to declare a flight programme since a major fix to a structural flaw was indentified in mid-June, shortly before its intended first flight. A fix to the wing-to-body join was necessary, where de-lamination of the structure was experienced during static wing-bending testing. Boeing’s new schedule allows the modification to be done to one aircraft and has “several weeks of schedule margin”, according to the company. The static test procedure that highlighted the stringer problem will be repeated and the results fully analysed before first flight is conducted.

“This new schedule provides us the time needed to complete the remaining work necessary to put the 787’s game-changing capability in the hands of our customers,” said Boeing Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney. “The design details and implementation plan are nearly complete, and the team is preparing aeroplanes for modification and testing.”

It was originally intended that the prototype and pre-production aircraft would be refurbished after flight testing and released to customers, but Boeing says this is no longer the case. The company has concluded that these airframes will have no commercial market value due to the inordinate amount of rework and extensive modifications made and will be written-off against a research and development budget. Boeing hopes to achieve a production rate of ten aircraft per month by late 2013. The first aircraft was originally scheduled to be delivered to All Nippon Airways in May 2008.

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