November 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 7 
Commercial Airplanes

A special flight in China

A special flight in China

Boeing converted freighter prototype takes to the air


When chief 747 test pilot Joe MacDonald took the controls of the newly converted Cathay Pacific Airways 747-400 freighter and ferried the aircraft from Xiamen, China, to Hong Kong on Oct. 5, it marked a milestone: It was the first flight of the prototype airplane in the Boeing Converted Freighter program.

The program, managed by Boeing Commercial Aviation Services, helps customers enhance the value of their existing 747 fleets by converting passenger airplanes to freighters, using the expertise of the original equipment manufacturer. Touch labor is provided by supplier-partner Taikoo (Xiamen) Aircraft Engineering (TAECO).

Another milestone is in the making on the ground in Hong Kong: The entire flight-test process required to earn FAA certification on the Cathay Pacific Airways airplane will be conducted there.

While Boeing has performed testing of its products all over the world, it had never put together a test program of this magnitude outside the United States. That required a lot of planning: not just moving two tons of equipment to Hong Kong, but also getting clearances from the Hong Kong Civil Aviation Department, and forming a team of test pilots, crews, and testing and
design engineers.

Paul Clement, lead test director, Validation and Flight Test Engineering, will have been in China for almost three months when the testing is scheduled to end this month. He said the program includes 30 separate tests. Design engineers, including the program's chief design engineer, Rich Dustman, are on hand to address any issues that arise from testing. TAECO, as well as Hong Kong–based customer Cathay Pacific and aircraft maintenance and engineering company HAECO, are also working closely with Boeing.

What will make this achievement even more remarkable is that the certification process is a brand-new one, to ensure compliance with the FAA's new "changed product" rule. With some exceptions, changes to the aircraft must now comply with today's standards for a brand-new aircraft, exceeding the standards that were in place when the aircraft was first built. In this case, it means retrofitting to meet new decompression, fuel tank ignition prevention, and smoke detection and penetration standards.

QuoteWhy test the airplane in Hong Kong? Marco Cavazzoni, director of the 747-400 Boeing Converted Freighter, said, "Hong Kong is a location that makes sense for stakeholders in the program." He said the decision reflected Boeing flexibility and the strong relationships with customer Cathay Pacific and supplier-partner TAECO.

As of early October, the Boeing Converted Freighter program had 36 firm orders and 29 options.

Cavazzoni said freighter conversions enhance the value of fleets, aiding customers financially. They also put Boeing customers in a position to buy newer passenger aircraft in anticipation of a world of civil aviation in which point-to-point scheduling is increasingly important. "And," he said, "the 747 makes a great freighter."

Because the conversions are part of the overall Commercial Airplanes strategy, the ability to meet aggressive schedules is key. So far, the prototype, begun in April 2005, is doing just that. Redelivery of the airplane to Cathay Pacific is on schedule for December.

"The whole program reflects a new Boeing maturity," Cavazzoni said. "It's a great example of successful global large-scale systems integration. Doing the FAA certification testing in Hong Kong is an extension of how we are now doing business around the world."


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