November 13, 2012
Credit: Photo: Keith Gaskell
Qatar Airways is preparing to fly its first Boeing 787 to Doha on Nov. 13, following the previous day’s ceremonial handover of the aircraft in Seattle. Two other 787s have been delivered, but these are at Boeing’s Victorville, Calif. facility for work on their in- flight entertainment (IFE) systems.
The timing of these initial deliveries was in question until recently. In early October, Al Baker threatened that Qatar would further delay formal acceptance of his airline’s first 787 unless its GEnx-1B engines had received new lubricant coatings on the fan mid-shaft.
Surface contamination of the shaft, linked to the use of a new type of coating, is suspected as the cause of the July 28 failure of a GEnx-1B powering a 787-8 at Charleston, S.C. The failure, which resulted in the destruction of the engine’s low pressure turbine, prompted a fleetwide inspection of both GE-powered 787s and 747-8s, the latter being powered by the GEnx-2B.
Operators have now been reassured by GE that the July failure was a one-off event, partially linked to the prolonged period of storage which that particular engine underwent.
Delivery of the Qatar aircraft comes as Boeing marks the transition of its 787 production rate from 3.5 to five aircraft per month with the assembly of the 83rd aircraft. Build-up to the five per month rate follows the loading of the first airframe on to a temporary surge line in the manufacturer’s Everett, Wash. facility on Aug. 24.
The surge line is the third 787 assembly facility, and was announced in 2009 when Boeing revealed plans to locate the second production line in Charleston, S.C. Located in building 40-24, the former 767 manufacturing site is sandwiched between the 777 and 747-8 lines. Boeing aims to double the production rate to 10 per month by the end of 2013.
During the Qatar delivery ceremony on Nov. 12, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Ray Conner said that the airframer is talking to Qatar about the 787-10X double-stretch version. AviationWeek reported last week that Boeing has begun formal discussions with airlines on the -10X program, following preliminary board approval.
Qatar’s GE-powered 787 is the first to be installed with wireless connectivity and touch passenger media units (TPMU), both provided by Thales. The 254-seat aircraft has a two-class cabin with 22 seats in business in a 1-2-1 configuration, and 232 economy seats in a 3-3-3 layout.