June 2005 
Volume 04, Issue 2 
Cover Story

Great Expectations


787-9 modelAll Nippon Airways' April 26, 2004, launch of the 787 program started a year of progress like no other at Boeing Commercial Airplanes.

In keeping with the most aggressive development schedule ever for a twin-aisle airplane, the team made advances in every phase of the program—from design to invention, from teaming to market acceptance. The payoff for these efforts has been a tremendous response from the airline community, which has placed firm orders and commitments for more than 250 airplanes. Among the most recent customers is Northwest Airlines. The Eagan, Minn.–based airline and Boeing said last month that Northwest would order up to 68 Dreamliners. With its initial delivery in August 2008, Northwest will be the first North American carrier operating the 787.

Northwest's order caught the attention of aerospace industry observers.

"Any order from an airline like Northwest is very important to the [787] program," said Craig Fraser, an aerospace analyst with Fitch Ratings, in an Associated Press report. "The fact that a U.S. airline would be placing an order in this environment indicates that the plane will add value to the company's operations." Also, in a St. Paul (Minn.) Pioneer Press article, J.B. Groh, an analyst with investment firm D.A. Davidson, said of the 787: "That plane has fantastic momentum. It's a revolutionary new design."

Design progressing

The release of the final exterior look of the airplane—arguably one of the more significant milestones in a new airplane's development—coincided with the one-year anniversary of launch. It also represents the most visible signal of design progress.

Air Canada"I think the most important accomplishment since launch is that the airplane is steadily maturing from a great concept to a great airplane," said BCA's Pete Lohr, Airplane and Systems Integration team co-leader. "We have plenty of challenges, but we are on the right path."

The 787 team has completed more than 300 trade studies, comparing the relative merits of different design options to help make the millions of decisions needed to get to the final look of the airplane. More than 800,000 hours of work on supercomputers running advanced computational fluid dynamics codes also have gone into the airplane.

Shortly before the launch anniversary, the first detailed design for the 787—a front engine mount shear pin, a major load-carrying element between the engine mount and the pylon—was finished and released according to plan.

Inventing the future

In addition to designing the airplane, the 787 team—including Boeing and its international partners—is inventing a new way of building airplanes. To take full advantage of the properties of composite materials, the team has invented an assembly method that allows for the efficient, consistent production of large fuselage sections with integrated stringers (lengthwise reinforcements). The result is a single piece of structure instead of thousands of pieces of aluminum held together with tens of thousands of fasteners.

text quoteThis structure, in turn, will lead to a dramatically streamlined final assembly process that joins several large sections instead of many smaller parts.

When a full-scale composite one-piece fuselage section was unveiled in January, Boeing showed the world that the 787 concepts had moved from the drawing board to factory floor.

"We really have the opportunity to make major changes and take advantage of technology developments," Lohr said. "We also have the obligation to challenge the assumptions built into our design, build and business practices and ensure they are really requirements as we move forward. It can be very uncomfortable setting aside practices we are familiar with, but we are setting in place the design-and-build framework this program will live with for many years."

Japan AirlinesTeaming internationally

Well before the launch of the program, it was clear that success would require the involvement of an international team. Boeing reached out to proven performers to create the 787 team.

But success requires more than just naming partners. There has to be true teaming and collaboration across vast distances and time zones to bring the product to fruition.

Boeing's close relationship with its 787 team members have led to significant progress in creating new business approaches.

"Together with our partners, we are learning how different concurrent development is than our traditional serial approach of development," said Pete van Leynseele, supervisor, 787 Flight Control System Integration.

He cited one example that illustrates the new approaches being taken throughout the program. "Traditionally, we would have waited until we had final loads defined with the airplane configuration fixed to establish design requirements for the flight control system. Our schedule dictated a different approach," van Leynseele said. "An integrated team of engineers representing Boeing and our partners found a way to develop actuation requirements based on preliminary loads while minimizing the risk of redesign. This was a significant success."

Northwest AirlinesMarket acceptance

Market acceptance is the payoff for the team working to bring the 787 to life.

"It has been extremely gratifying to see the market acceptance of this airplane," van Leynseele said. "It is clearly the product the marketplace wanted and we have the best, most talented team in the world working to bring it home."

With more than 250 announced orders and commitments, the 787 program has built a customer base that stretches over four continents—Africa, Asia, Europe and North America. The business models for its 20 customers are varied, a testament to the flexibility of the airplane.

"The work is challenging yet very rewarding, especially when we see the order numbers climbing and acceptance by the airlines in such a positive light," said Pam Pavlos of 787 Business Operations.

What's next?

The next 12 months will bring challenges and opportunities throughout the program.

"Everyone—from airlines to passengers—seems to be interested in this airplane, which is very rewarding," said Melissa Gaul, 787 Dreamliner Marketing. "Our biggest challenge from a Marketing standpoint is to keep up the phenomenal momentum and excitement created by the great work of our engineers. Next year will be another great year of progress."



June 2004: Air New Zealand joins the launch team.

July 2004: Blue Panorama of Italy and First Choice Airways of the United Kingdom become the first European 7E7 customers.

October 2004: Primaris Airlines announces plans to purchase 7E7s, becoming the first low-cost carrier to select the airplane.

December 2004: Japan Airlines, Continental Airlines and Vietnam Airlines join the 7E7 Dreamliner launch-customer team.

January 2005: The first full-scale composite one-piece fuselage section is unveiled. Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines announce their plans to purchase a combined 60 7E7s. The 7E7 receives the official model designation of 787.

February 2005: Ethiopian Airlines becomes the first Africa-based operator to choose the 787 Dreamliner. Icelandair joins the 787 launch team.

April 2005: Korean Air announces a 787 order. Air Canada joins the team of 787 launch customers. Air India announces its intention to purchase 787s. Boeing reveals the final exterior look of the airplane.


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