Friday, August 23, 2013

The 787 Phase II Testing Draws To A Close

Phase I: The engineers, assemblers and subcontractors  completed its tests in phase I years ago, and continue to test the aircraft throughout the phase II part which is now drawing to a close. Phase I consisted of the first 6 test models and its static model in the stress test. It was a proof of concept program that validated the whole idea of a plastic airplane and its feasibility in its own marketable class. This phase was completed well into 2010. Phase II began when ANA and Japan Airlines took delivery of its first Aircraft late in 2011. Marking the beginning of the customer test period or phase II.

The period of time where customers who are not engineers, trained assembly staff and do not have the wealth of scope that subcontractors store for all the 787 millions of parts. The first 100 aircraft were originally proclaimed as a block point for assessing and improving from the proof of design, clear to unit number 100 entering service. A million or more passengers, a dozen or more airlines and millions of miles later, most of faults are flushed out, where the original test mode could have not discovered by the experts, only in operation mode by flight worthy 787's.

Only operational customers around the world could discover with its crews, maintenance procedures and its customers who merrily ply the sky-ways experimenting with the touch screens, cup holders and window shades in total ignorance of the technology. They enjoy the experience so much that the 787 is rated a top performer by its customers. Even though through battery fire and mishap it turns out to be a fine  airplane by an undaunted build number 100 entering into service.

Phase III: Refine the product from all lessons learned.

Now Boeing is striking forward with the -9. Build it like the best -8 off the line by adding all those lessons learned, and you have a world beater in the -9. Lufthansa is contemplating obtaining an Airbus A-350 or not, one A-350 that has not been tried by fire. They are looking at the 787 family, and how that would translate to the 777-X when fusing the excellent 777 performance with 787 milestones that are now part of Boeing's DNA for building advanced aircraft. Boeing definitely has the high-ground at this point over Airbus, but lacks the European loyalty towards Airbus. The question remains for Lufthansa board members. Can the Airbus come close to Boeing's offering in size economy and advancement? If so, then it will be a split order between the cheery pickings from both Boeing and Airbus.

However, if Boeing's demonstration in the sales room and shows Lufthansa the whole package, producing a reality for the 787-9, -10 and the 777-X plan in such a way, by retiring all roadblocks through water-under-the-bridge presentation from the 787-8 program, during these last two years. Then the enticement to buy is extremely strong. Lufthansa cannot afford developmental holdups from either framer. Boeing is much further down that road than Airbus is, at this time. Loyalty takes a back seat as Lufthansa  ponders its destiny with either framer.  A mixed order is a safe decision. Going all in with either Boeing or Airbus is a bold statement of changing Lufthansa fortunes and with a plan for the future.

If Boeing doesn't get the order for 50 wide bodies as an exclusive order, not all is lost in battle. Its only loyalty skirmish from Europe. If it remains a mixed fleet order it is a hedge bet by Lufthansa delaying what framer has the upper hand in Europe. How important is this order for Boeing ? As in very important. It would signal a Sea Change for European thinking that may spill over to Air France and other significant
carriers for that market. The Middle East carriers have infiltrated the European market from Qatar, Doha and other players. Air India is siphoning tickets from London Heathrow and Frankfurt Germany. Qatar is moving quickly with its 787 equipment into Europe. South East  Asia and China likes what it sees in the 787. A change is happening now at a rapid pace. How fast can Lufthansa get into the game with the right choice, is the lynch pin for Boeing sales push. By lining up its carriers that are invading Europe, can the A-350 stem the 787/777-X tide for Lufthansa?

That is a September 18, 2013 question! Now back to the Phase II customer testing thoughts, and the unit 100 block point. LN107 is the 100th customer made in sequence, shipping to ANA. Boeing has gone past this number with its-in-the-works frame at number LN138, and is only 21 frames away from the 100th delivery, since delivery of number 79 today to China Southern. Boeing has had a rolling improvement system, where any updating to 787 aircraft is  done on the fly, whether its in the factory, flight-line or in service. The bulk of customer trials are closing off leaving only the continuous improvement items to run into infinity. The engineers and plant  players are striving to beat the competition every day. Now the tricky question, What will Lufthansa do? I want a Sea Change Order go to Boeing, but will likely see a hedge order for both framers, because Lufthansa doesn't have solidarity in the board room. The board maybe split between visionary, and customer loyalty types. Exclusive order for Airbus opens Europe for its back door competitors. Such as all the above mentioned  players from the mid-east and India.