Boeing announced at the beginning of July that it has completed the firm configuration for the stretched 787-9, bringing years of collaboration with airline customers and partners to fruition.
“Firm configuration means the airplane's structural, propulsion and systems architectures are defined and not changing,” says Mark Jenks, vice-president of 787-9 development at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
Boeing completed the trade studies required to finalise the aircraft's overall capability and basic design, allowing the manufacturer and its suppliers to begin detailed design of parts, assemblies and other systems. Production will then begin as detailed designs are completed and released. The first 787-9 delivery is scheduled for late 2013.
"We have a disciplined process in place to ensure we have completed all of the requirements for the development stage of the programme," says Scott Fancher, Boeing vice-president and programme general manager.
The 787-9 is the second member of the 787 family. A slightly bigger version of the 787-8, the aircraft will accommodate 250-290 passengers, 16 percent more than its stablemate. The -9 will have a range of 8,000-8,500 nautical miles (14,800-15,750 km).
Separately, Boeing says it recently identified a workmanship issue with the 787’s horizontal stabilisers. Some aircraft have been found to have problems with improperly installed shims and the torque of associated fasteners.
“This finding requires inspection of all airplanes and rework if discrepancies are found,” Boeing says.
An inspection and rework plan is being implemented for aircraft in production.
“For those airplanes requiring rework, we expect it will take up to eight days for each airplane. It is not unusual for these issues to arise in the course of production programmes – they are identified, dispositioned and dealt with through our normal processes,” the manufacturer says.
The company says reports that the fleet was “grounded” by the problems are incorrect. It adds that it decided to inspect the horizontal stabilisers on all flight-test aircraft before their next flights to ensure any rework would be completed as quickly as possible. The inspections were carried out in late June.
“We expect that this issue will be addressed within the existing program schedule,” Boeing says. “The 787 remains on track for first delivery to ANA by the end of this year.”
The 787 prototypes passed 1,000 hours of flight testing on 16 June. According to the manufacturer, the programme has now completed about 40 percent of the test conditions required for certification.
“More work remains, but we are seeing excellent progress in flight test,” Fancher says. “It's also important to note that we are making solid progress on the ground testing required on the flight test fleet as well.”
The first 787 with General Electric (GE) GEnx-1B engines, test aircraft ZA005, completed its maiden flight on 16 June, with a 3-hour and 48-minute excursion over the state of Washington.
“The airplane handled just like I expected,” flight Captain Mike Bryan said after landing. “It was just like every other 787 flight that I've flown in the last several months – smooth, per plan and excellent.”
ZA005 will be used to test the GE engine package and demonstrate that the changes made with the new engine do not change the aircraft’s handling characteristics.
The sixth and final 787 to join the flight-test programme is expected to fly before the end of July.