Just as the A380 was touching down for the first time on American soil Monday, Boeing, not to be upstaged by rival Airbus, was offering the first quarterly update on the 787 Dreamliner. The message from 787 boss Mike Bair was that unit one of the Dreamliner is on "target" to roll out on 7/8/7 (get it?) and fly for the first time in late August. A year from May, the first commerical deliveries are slated to commence to All Nippon Airways.
Of any single issue, the 80-minute update focused on the innovative materials (a guarded secret) that will comprise the center sections and more than 60% of the fuselage. "We are driven by trying to drive weight out of the composite structures," said Bair, adding that so far, "the laminates have been phenomenal." He acknowledged that Alenia Aeronautica, the Italian company making the composites, was delayed because it had to replant 1,000 olive trees - some four centuries old - that its new factory would be displacing. He said the "catch-up recovery plan" was ahead of schedule and that some center sections had arrived in the Everett, Wash. plant where the 787 will be assembled. And he characterized small delays as caused by problems where "a CNC operator who thought he could do better than the computer."
The GEnx and Trent 1000 engines from GE and Rolls respectively garnered little discussion with Bair characterizing them as "calm and well-behaved." Bair confirmed the engines will be "swappable at the pylon interface." Both are on testbeds now.
Besides that, the plane is 98% designed with about 100 engineers in the field with partners to make last-minute design tweaks which can lead to retooling, which is one of the biggest factors in driving up cost. Bair also said while the plan is fly for the first tiome in late August, the date is neither hard nor fast. "The airplane is ready to fly when it’s ready to fly….it's stupid to pick a [fixed] date," he said, adding that after the first flight, invaribly, "unique quirks" will arise. Five are presently in variously stages of assembly and Boeing is sticking to its forecast that 112 will be made in the first two years of production.
See Beth Stackpole's CAD/CAM Corner blog for a rundown on why the roll-out of the A380 was delayed
for two years. And we'll be doing stories in the next few months on my most of the major engineering aspect as the 787 gets closer to wheels up.