The 787 program ran into serious trouble a couple of weeks ago after an electrical fire broke out on unit ZA002 (N787EX, msn: 40691, l/n #2) while on approach at Laredo, Texas. All of the flight test aircraft have since returned to BFI and Paine Field except for ZA002, and the testing fleet is essentially grounded while Boeing sorts out what went wrong and remedies a fix – though one 787 did fly from PAE to BFI this weekend.
But over the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday weekend, Boeing took two steps towards reaching the In-Service stage. For the first time, engines have been added to the customer-bound, regular-production air-frames that have been stacking up at Paine Field (filling every available slot and even being stored by the Future of Flight exhibit).
The first customer-bound unit to receive engines is the one seen here, reported by the usually very reliable Paine Airport Blog of Matt Cawby as being JA804A (msn: 34497, l/n: 11). Cargo Facts was on hand as a second airframe, JA822J (msn: 34832, l/n: 23) was rolled into the Aviation Technical Services hangar at the south end of the field on Saturday morning to have engines installed. This second unit is for Japan Airlines.
The enormous pressure on Boeing to get the 787 into service safely and quickly only increased with an article in the Financial Times today in which ANA CEO Shinichiro Ito discussed pressing Boeing for more details on the fire, possible additional delays, and for a firm delivery schedule. ANA is the launch customer for the 787 and ZA002 is painted in ANA’s livery.
And if that wasn’t enough, Air Transport World is reporting today that China Eastern is considering cancelling its 787 order or possibly swapping out 787s for 777 variants.
It wasn’t all criticism though, Mr. Ito said that ANA remains proud to be the launch customer for the 787 and while it is greatly disappointed with the delays, it’s still committed to the new aircraft and is excited about being the first to have them.
At the moment, the customer-bound air-frames at Paine are largely bound for ANA and JAL, although there are two for Royal Air Maroc and one for Air India that have been fully painted, and one possibly LAN-bound frame that is still all-white, all currently awaiting engines on the flight line. Coupled with the many 748F frames and regular 777 production, Paine Field is packed at the moment.
Photographer: Alex Kwanten.