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Boeing employees are focusing on issues related to training, maintenance, spare parts and infrastructure ahead of 787's first commercial flights.

Dream supporters: getting the 787 ready for passengers

By Jay Spenser

Introducing an all-new airplane into commercial operation involves much more than just building a great jet. Successful debuts also require that the airlines be fully ready to operate it.

Adrian Butler

Boeing/Bob Ferguson

Adrian Butler is among the many Boeing employees working to help airlines prepare when the 787 Dreamliner's enters commercial service.

So even as flight testing continues for the 787 Dreamliner, Boeing and airlines are working together to address training, maintenance, spare parts and infrastructure issues such as ground-support equipment and airplane compatibility with airport gates.

"To ensure a new jetliner is highly reliable, we need to have a more mature airplane and more mature product support before the plane enters service," said Larry Slate, who is leading the entry-into-service process for the 787.

Slate knows how important this preparation is. Prior to joining Boeing, he managed United Airlines' 777 fleet when the carrier introduced the airplane in 1995.

"Although the Dreamliner represents a quantum leap in technology, we're working to ensure it attains a consistently high level of reliability even faster than the 777," Slate said.

The first airline to operate the 787 is launch customer ANA (All Nippon Airways). With the first delivery scheduled for later this year, Boeing's Training and Flight Services group is training 450 ANA maintenance technicians on the unique techniques needed to maintain the 787.

"When we deliver a new airplane, we in effect place the Boeing brand in our customers' hands and they entrust us with their brand."
- Mike Fleming, director of 787 Services and Support.

Before this training can even begin, Boeing employees compiled a wealth of airplane data, completed manuals and created illustrations. Employees also developed the minimum-equipment list that carriers and authorities will use to define airplane-related dispatch criteria.

"From its composite structure and more electric architecture to its extensive use of information technology, the 787 presents a great deal that's new on the hardware and software fronts," said Jeff Haber, 787 maintenance training manager. "We're working closely with our customers to help ensure they're ready."

787 Dreamliner inspection

Darien Chin

An ANA (All Nippon Airways) instructor and maintenance manager inspect a 787 Dreamliner part during a training course in Everett, Wash.

Boeing is also dispatching field service representatives around the world. They will be based with key 787 suppliers and 787 operators to deal with specific needs.

"Once the 787 enters service, operators will count on us and our suppliers to anticipate and develop rapid short-term solutions and implement final fixes to eliminate any issues that might crop up," according to Dale Wilkinson, Boeing vice president of Material Management.

Airlines typically want their spare parts on hand two months before receiving the airplane. But they need to order this inventory six months before then. And before the airlines place their order, they must first decide which and how many spare parts to buy. So Boeing must provide the right information to airlines as much as one year before entry into service.

"When we deliver a new airplane, we in effect place the Boeing brand in our customers' hands and they entrust us with their brand," said Mike Fleming, director of 787 Services and Support.