Boeing said it has moved its fifth “flight test” 787 Dreamliner into assembly today, signaling a steady ramp-up in production of the long delayed airplane. Number five will also be the first outfitted with GE’s GEnx engines.
“It’s the first new 787 to enter production since September. You’ll see a steady drumbeat of airplanes entering and exiting final assembly,” a Boeing spokeswoman said. The current schedule was disrupted by last fall’s 58-day machinists strike.
“This airplane signifies our return to a steady production rhythm,” vice president of 787 Final Assembly and Change Incorporation Jack Jones was quoted as saying in the press release. The announcement is also significant because the ZA005 will certify the GEnx engines in flight. The first four planes use the Trent 1000 engines from Rolls Royce.
The fifth plane, designated ZA005, is the seventh to enter assembly. Two are used for fatigue and static airframe testing and will never fly, the spokeswoman said. ZA005 is the fifth of six airplanes that will undergo flight testing and when finished with that are “refurbished” for customers.
Boeing’s press release set an optimistic tone after a series of setbacks resulting from nagging fastener shortages. ZA001 and ZA002 have undergone fastener “rework” while ZA004 and ZA005 are in the second production position, the press release said. Engines are hung in the fourth and final assembly position where ZA002 is now, Boeing said. Across the 787’s network of 40 tier one suppliers, 30 787s are in production.
The 787 order book juggernaut suffered one casualty this week when Russian S7 airlines canceled an order for 15 787s, bringing orders down to 895 across 58 remaining customers. ZA001, the first 787 that will fly, is still slated for wheels up the second quarter.
Why do I write about the 787? It is the ultimate expression of engineering across all disciplines and seeing it fly for the first time in the second quarter should be a mega rush. In my former life at designnews.com, I and the rest of my former edit team wrote countless stories and features about the 787 and I cannot stop now so close to first flight!