FR0709-Boeing787-Rollout787 Dreamliner unveiled in Everett

The 787 rollout ceremony was accompanied by a typical knocking noise. When one knocks the new carbon fibre fuselage with one's finger, the sound is rather like the noise made when a plastic breakfast board is knocked.

By Sebastian Steinke

Hardly a single one of the guests of honour at the rollout ceremony could resist the temptation of surreptitiously trying out this sound test. Having been towed out of the paint hangar directly in front of its final assembly hall, the gleaming twin jet sparkled as it was besieged by throngs of people, including a full complement of Boeing employees. After the speeches and live satellite broadcasts to the 787 production partners, the hangar gates of the 787 final assembly hall, "40-26", which had temporarily been transformed into a banqueting hall for 15,000 guests, finally slid open to reveal a tractor towing the first flying prototype of the Boeing's new great white hope, internal designation ZA001 and registration code N787BA, into view.

The 787 looks a lot fatter and bulgier than its predecessor, the 767, which was of a similar size, as it is wider and thus, like the 777 and all the Airbus widebodies, ultimately offers more space, including room for underfloor freight containers arranged in pairs. On the other hand, its delicate-looking wings really do look as elegant as they had been on the computer displays touted by Boeing's Marketing department, and end with sabre-like raked wingtips bent slightly upwards. Compared with the angular "beaver's tail" of the 777 tip, the fuselage ends with the APU outlet at the rear and is crowned by the somewhat small tail fin, which is positioned relatively far forward.

A special love of aerodynamic detail design is discernible not just on the wing, for example in the streamlined, covered, drop-shaped flap actuating mechanisms. The smooth fuselage surface with few snugly countersunk rows of rivets and the well-shaped wing-fuselage transition hint at the special care that Boeing has taken over its new twin-jet.

The size of the air inlet hoods near the forward wing root is quite striking. It is through these that ambient air is conveyed for cooling purposes into the electrical power generation equipment with its particularly prominent size, but ambient air for the air-conditioning power pack is also sucked through them. The 787 is known as an "electric" aircraft on account of its system architecture and no longer uses bleed air for the actual wing de-icing or for the air-conditioning and pressure cabin, only for de-icing of the engine pylons. Nevertheless, according to 787 systems director Mike Sinnet, the 787 draws less power from the engines during the cruise than today's aircraft.

The relative humidity of the cabin air is high at 15 percent, which is supposed to enhance passenger comfort. Electrical filters are used to cleanse the cabin air of 99.9999 percent of all viruses, bacteria, dust and even gas particles. A copper conductor cable net embedded in the outside skin is intended to protect against lightning strike.

The relatively "wide-mouthed" engines with their 2.84 metre fan diameter and fuel-efficient, noise-reducing high bypass ratio are very striking on account of their distinct sawtooth trailing edges for noise reduction. Only on the rear underside are two of the sawteeth joined together into a paddle-like surface. In the circular air inlets one can make out the very wide, stylishly intertwined engine blades. A single-piece insulating lining inside the air inlet reduces the external noise by 16db(A). Three-shaft Trent 1000 engines from Rolls-Royce are mounted on prototypes 1 to 4, whereas flight test prototypes 5 and 6 are to be fitted with the General Electric GEnx-1B. The cowlings of the 787, which are always a standard white and cannot be overpainted individually by the customer, have a particularly high surface finish and are designed to allow a largely laminar external airflow, i.e. low on drag.

The 787 stands on two main landing gears, each with four wheels, and one two-tyre nose landing gear. The carbon brakes of the main landing gears are controlled with electric motors. It would be fascinating to know how great a mass the four-wheel main landing gears of 787 will be able to withstand on later, heavier versions. Emirates has already expressed an interest in a twice stretched 787-10ER version with long-haul range and hence a take-off weight three times increased. No decision has yet been made on this version. Airbus has announced that for the rival A350-1000 model it will use a main landing gear with groups of six wheels instead of four, which can be extended in modular fashion, along with enlarged undercarriage bays.

On 8 July the first 787 was still almost empty inside. The plan was therefore that immediately after the ceremony the aircraft should return to final assembly, with system installation and system tests next in line. Moreover, thousands of temporary rivets, which are still marked red on the prototype, have to be exchanged for the final, flightworthy ones. For the already overpainted prototype Boeing has created a special "rivet map" to ensure that all the temporary rivets can be located.

The production team, whose numbers will remain boosted with experienced 777 staff up to serial number 20, had a comfortable two months time frame in which to complete final assembly of the very first 787. But by the time serial number 100 comes along, this work should be completed in only six days, and ultimately the goal is to reduce it to a mere three days. At least the fuselage segments and wings, which are transported to Everett by four 747 Dreamlifters, are largely preassembled and fully equipped. For example, the fully tested nose landing gear is already integrated into each nose section. As soon as the interior of prototype ZA001 is finished, including its extensive flight test and telemetry equipment, it will be possible to start up the installed engines for the first time.

According to Rolls-Royce, the Trent 1000 has already proved itself in the air in "near-production standard" on the flying testbed of Rolls-Royce and L3, a converted 747-200, and has already generated electrical power which is taken up by resistor banks installed inside the cabin. After only six test flights above Waco in Texas the test jumbo flew under its own steam to Everett for the rollout, where it appeared proudly with its Trent 1000 in the left inboard engine position. Apparently Rolls-Royce is currently building the 19th engine for the fourth 787. The Trent 1000 has already survived 150 hours of maximum continuous power on the ground test rig.

Ever since the debut of the 777-200 in April 1994, Boeing staff had been expecting their employer to finally take the plunge and launch a completely new civil aircraft programme as opposed to just derivatives of existing types. And as in the case of the 777, which also had Japanese programme partners involved, its courage seems to be paying off: only the evening before the rollout ceremony, Air Berlin become the biggest European 787 customer with 25 firm orders, 10 options and 15 "purchase rights", so that as of the big day the 767 order backlog stood at a staggering 677 orders from 47 customers, with a list value of $110 billion.

This makes the 787 the most successful Boeing aircraft programme, as measured by orders received by rollout. A new customer placing an order for a 787 today will have to wait to the year 2015 for the next free delivery slot. Boeing estimates a requirement for 3,500 aircraft, worth $400 billion, in this market segment between now and 2023, and has set itself the target of winning over half of this business for the 787. In three to four months Boeing plans to make a decision about possibly increasing the production rate.

The 787 will take off on its maiden flight possibly at the end of August, but more likely not until September. This first flight will be a round trip to Paine Field in Everett lasting three to four hours. After that the test fleet will move to Boeing's regular base at Boeing Field in Seattle. "We are planning a relatively short flight test programme," explains 787 programme manager Mike Bair in response to a question from FLUG REVUE. "To make up for this, we will be flying more." Instead of 11 months as on the 777, flight testing of the 787 is planned to last only eight months – an ambitious goal. Six later customer aircraft and one static and one dynamic test fuselage will assist here in clearing the way for certification by the first delivery in the spring of 2008 to All Nippon Airways (ANA). Even if the maiden flight were to be delayed beyond the beginning of September, according to Mike Bair, Boeing would still be able to deliver on time, although it would then be necessary to catch up on certain tests.

Boeing has already agreed with the authorities how compliance with the regulations will be demonstrated for the new materials and systems. The electronic flight control software of the 787 has now completed nine months of in-flight testing on a 777 leased from American Airlines. Version ICD 7.2 of the software, which was released on 22 June, is to be used for the maiden flight.

Mike Bair expects the aerodynamic properties of the 787 to strongly resemble those of the 777. According to Boeing, the 787 for the first time uses a novel, three-dimensional gust load control system known as Manoeuvre Load Alleviation. Its electronics measure any turbulence and jolts on a nose sensor and initiate automatic control movements to iron out the strongest loadings for structure and passengers. In addition, loading on the outboard sections of the wings are displaced inwards, enabling 1.8 tonnes to be shed through a lighter type of structure.

The next aircraft after ZA001 (which is earmarked for delivery to ANA later) was already to be seen in the final assembly hall: static test fuselage ZY997. This will be followed by prototype ZA002 (earmarked for ANA), the dynamic test fuselage ZY998 and then the remaining flight test aircraft ZA003 and ZA004 (earmarked for Northwest), ZA005 (the first aircraft to be powered with GE engines which will later go to Royal Air Maroc) and ZA006 (GE engines, also destined for Royal Air Maroc). The first customer aircraft, ZA007, is due to be handed over to ANA in May 2008 before Air China receives its ZA008, just in time for the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Planned production for the first two years, 2008 and 2009, has been set at 112 aircraft. The full production rate is not expected to be reached until 2010. Here, the need on the part of the component suppliers to have their costly production infrastructure permanently utilised at a uniform rate is acting as a bottleneck. According to Mike Bair, Boeing has spent less on its 787 investment than it did on the 777.

From page 24 of FLUG REVUE 9/2007

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