Boeing’s 787-9 first flight to be significant

The first flight of the Boeing 787-9, the newest member of Boeing’s 787 family, is coming soon. And it will have greater implications than normal for a “minor model variant,” said anĀ  industry expert.

The first flight of the 787-9 Dreamliner, a variant of the 787-8, would typically be of little consequence, said Scott Hamilton, an industry consultant with Leeham Co.

But the flight will have greater scrutiny than otherwise because of the “painful birth of the lead variant, the 787-8 and its troubled early service that included a 3 1/2 month grounding,” Hamilton wrote in a newsletter.

Boeing made significant changes to the 787-9 based on lessons learned from the 787-8.

Those included a reported 30 percent of the design and also changes to the design and production of the tail, the side-of-body wing join, elements of the wing’s internal structure, some electronics and to the lithium ion batteries that led to the grounding of all 50 787-8 Dreamliners in service, Hamilton wrote.

Dispatch reliability also remains a challenge for the 787-8s, “hovering around 98 percent.” Boeing wants to see it closer to 99.7 percent, the standard set by the 737 NB and the 777, he said.

That may not sound like a lot of difference, but it means a lot to the airlines, Hamilton said.

Expectations are high for the 787-9, he said.

“We hear the first plane emerged from the factory pretty ‘clean,’ that is without the troubles that bedeviled the -8,” Hamilton wrote. “Let’s hope the flight test program comes off without a hitch.”

Boeing also is planning another variant of the 787, a 787-10.