B-787 In Yuma For Testing

(photo courtesy Leon Hammack)

I read in the local newspaper that Boeing brought a B-787 into Yuma for the next nine days to do some hot temperature testing here in Yuma.  So I jumped into my car and drove to the airport and maneuvered over to the ramp area where the B-787 was parked.

The tail number of this airplane is N787EX. This is the airframe that Boeing will be doing most all of the testing on.  The EX part of the tail number signifies that this airplane is still in the “experimental” stage and not completely certified by the FAA yet.

I got out of my car, took my camera, and walked closer to the fence trying to get some good photos of this new Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  It is a long range, mid-sized, wide body, with twin engines ( this one has two Rolls Royce engines), and seats between 210-330 people depending on the configuration.

I talked to a couple of the Boeing crewmembers that were heading out onto the ramp, their nine day visit to Yuma is for the purpose of  gathering data for the flight manual regarding hot temperature and the performance of the B-787.  Additionally the engineers are here to data on single engine performance, go around performance, as well.

There are three models in the production line so far, B-787-8, B-787-3, and B-787-9. Here is some interesting information regarding this new airplane for Boeing.

B-787-8

The 787-8 is the base model of the 787 family with a length of 186 feet (57 m) and a wingspan of 197 feet (60 m) and a range of 7,650 to 8,200 nautical miles (14,200 to 15,200 km) depending on seating configuration. The 787-8 seats 210 passengers in a three class configuration. The variant will be the first of the 787 line to enter service in 2010. Boeing is targeting the 787-8 to replace the 767-200ER and 767-300ER, as well as expand into new non-stop markets where larger planes would not be economically viable. The bulk of 787 orders are for the 787-8.

B-787-3

This variant, the B-787-3, was designed to be a 290-seat (two-class) short-range version of the 787 targeted at high-density flights, with a range of 2,500 to 3,050 nautical miles (4,650 to 5,650 km) when fully loaded. It was designed to replace the Airbus A300/Airbus A310 and Boeing 757-300/Boeing 767-200 on regional routes from airports with restricted gate spacing. It would have used the same fuselage as the 787-8, though with some areas of the fuselage strengthened for higher cycles. The wing would have been derived from the 787-8, with blended winglets replacing raked wingtips. The change would have decreased the wingspan by roughly 25 feet (7.6 m), allowing the 787-3 to fit into more domestic gates, particularly in Japan.

This model would have been limited in its range by a reduced maximum take-off weight (MTOW) of 364,000 lb (163,290 kg). (Actual range is calculated by the remaining available weight for fuel after the aircraft empty weight and payload are subtracted from the MTOW). A full load of passengers and cargo would limit the amount of fuel it could take on board, as with the 747-400D. This is only viable on shorter, high-density routes, such as Tokyo to Shanghai, Osaka to Seoul, or London to Berlin. Many airports charge landing fees based on aircraft weight; thus, an airliner rated at a lower MTOW, though otherwise identical to its sibling, would pay lower fees.

Boeing has projected that the future of aviation between very large (but close) cities of five million or more may stabilize around the capacity level of the 787-3. Regions such as India and East Asia, where large population centers are in close proximity, offer many examples. Approximately 3.1 billion people live within the range of the 787-3 if used in India or China. Boeing has also claimed that the 787-3’s efficiency could offset the higher landing fees and acquisition costs (compared to a single-aisle plane) and make it useful on such routes.

Boeing also believed legacy carriers could have used this variant to compete with low-cost airlines by running twice the capacity of a single-aisle craft for less than twice its operating cost (fuel, landing fees, maintenance, number of flight crew, airspace fees, parking fees, gate fees, etc.).

Beyond Asia, a range of 3,050 nm (5,600 km), or flight time of roughly six hours is sufficient to connect many major cities. The gate spacing constraint that the 787-3 was intended to overcome is really only a problem in Japan. In Europe, the -3 would still have been too wide for most short-haul gates and in the Middle East, India and China new airports are being built with wider gate spacing. Boeing had not planned to certify the 787-3 in Europe because of lack of interest in the model from potential European customers.

Forty-three 787-3s were ordered by the two Japanese airlines that operate the 747-400D, but production problems on the base 787-8 model led Boeing to postpone the introduction of the 787-3 in April 2008, following the 787-9 but without a firm delivery date. Japan Airlines canceled all of its 787-3 orders, and All Nippon Airways reduced its order to 28 in May 2009 (canceled two from its original 30). All of these canceled 787-3 orders were transferred to 787-8 orders. In December 2009, All Nippon Airways converted their remaining 787-3 orders to the 787-8, leaving no orders for this type.  It is likely the 787-3 variant will be shelved entirely following the lack of interest by potential customers caused by it being designed specifically for the Japanese market.

B-787-9

The 787-9 will be the first variant of the 787 with a “stretched” (lengthened) fuselage, seating 250–290 in three classes with a range of 8,000 to 8,500 nautical miles (14,800 to 15,750 km). This variant differs from the 787-8 in several ways, including structural strengthening, a lengthened fuselage, a higher fuel capacity, a higher maximum take-off weight (MTOW), but with the same wingspan as the 787-8. The targeted date for entry into service (EIS), originally planned for 2010, was scheduled for early 2013 in December 2008. Boeing is targeting the 787-9 to compete with both passenger variants of the Airbus A330 and to replace their own 767-400ER. Like the 787-8, it will also open up new non-stop routes, flying more cargo and fewer passengers more efficiently than the 777-200ER or A340-300/500. The firm configuration was finalized on 1 July 2010.

When first launched, the 787-9 had the same fuel capacity as the other two variants. The design differences meant higher weight and resulted in a slightly shorter range than the 787-8. After further consultation with airlines, design changes were incorporated to add a forward tank to increase its fuel capacity. It will now have a longer range and a higher MTOW than the other two variants. The -9 will be able to fly non-stop from New York to Manila or from Moscow to São Paulo and will have the lowest seat-mile cost of the three 787 variants.

Air New Zealand is the launch customer for the 787-9 and the second customer ever for the 787 behind ANA. Qantas, Etihad Airways and Singapore Airlines have placed the largest orders for the 787-9.

This is a plane that I would love to be able to fly in the future!  Unfortunately, it looks like my flying career is about to come to a screeching halt!  I will know more later in the year when the FAA evaluates my medical condition.  Until then, my feet are firmly planted on the ground!

I won’t be seeing you in the friendly skies anytime soon, nevertheless, I will be seeing you at the race tracks shortly!

So always keep the shiny side up!

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