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As Air France-KLM prepares to roll out the initial elements of a turnaround plan for Air France, the airline group confirms that it has closed its deal with Boeing for 25 787s, of which KLM will be the initial operator, starting in 2016. The airline group also has 25 787s on option.
Air France-KLM confirmed the airline group is the unidentified customer for 25 787-9s listed in Boeing’s order book when the airframer disclosed annual figures last week. Air France also will operate the 787, although at a yet-to-be-set date. An engine decision is pending.
Air France-KLM announced its intention to buy both the 787 and the Airbus A350 in September. An airline official says that talks are under way to finalize the firm order for 25 Airbus A350s. Those talks involve both Airbus and Rolls-Royce, the sole engine supplier.
The 787 order confirmation comes in what could be a pivotal week for Air France, with a board meeting likely on Thursday to set into motion the first elements of a turnaround plan under new CEO Alexandre de Juniac. The executive previously said the plan would involve a two-stage process, the first of which would focus on bolstering the existing cost-savings plan.
Decisions on a wider reorganization, aimed at reducing the airline’s debt level, boosting its short- and medium-haul performance and stepping up its overall competitiveness are not expected to emerge until June because of the need to coordinate with labor groups.
Boeing now holds 305 orders for the long-range 787-9 and 555 for the standard 787-8.
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The 787 Dreamliner flight certification training has been started by Boeing Training & Flight Services following the provisional approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for Boeing‘s Seattle-based 787 flight training devices
Pilots train on a 787 flat panel training device and a 787 full-flight simulator as part of flight training. Both devices were manufactured by Thales.
Sherry Carbary, Vice president, Flight Services, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said “The innovations of the 787 have inspired us to develop the most effective training curriculum based on our customers’ training needs matched with efficient delivery and modern simulation tools.” She also stated “With the FAA‘s approval on our flight training devices, we are embarking on an exciting journey toward delivering qualified and competent crews.”
The provisional designation will be removed once the airplane is fully certified. Local FAA offices will approve training courses customized for individual operators and these may be based on provisional approvals prior to certification of the airplane.
Mike Fleming, 787 Director of Services and Support, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said “We’re pleased with the progress we are making in ensuring our support products and services are ready for our customers.” Fleming also mentioned that “This is an exciting time for our customers and an important achievement for the entire Boeing team as we move toward delivery of the first 787.”
Currently, there are eight training suites at five Boeing Training & Flight Services locations around the world namely in Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Seattle and Gatwick, U.K.
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Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Aside from the delay in the first flight of the sixth and final 787 flight test of the Boeing aircraft to Sept. 12, the US plane maker is also facing a $1 billion claim from Air India related to 27 delayed Dreamliners the carrier has on order.
The latest challenges to hit the 787 program come as Boeing continues to target the 2010 fourth quarter for first delivery to ANA even as it warns that first deliveries could slip into 2011. While final assembly has started on the 26th 787 designated for Air India, the airline reportedly has submitted a $1 billion claim against Boeing for compensation for delivery delays. According to India Today, it has the backing of the Indian government in seeking compensation from Boeing, although the US government is pressuring it to soften its line.
Initial 787 deliveries to Air India were due to start in 2008 but the first aircraft is now scheduled to be delivered in March 2011. The airline is planning to use 787s to replace aging aircraft including A310s and 747-400s. Boeing has acknowledged that the margin on the 787 flight test program has thinned considerably. Its plan to put the sixth flight test aircraft in the air by the end of July did not come to fruition. According to company insiders, ZA006‘s first flight is now targeted for Sept. 12.
The 787 Dreamliner is a long range, wide-body jet airliner made up composite materials and is the company’s most fuel-efficient plane which could seat 210 to 330 passengers.
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Last Thursday, Boeing announced that issues about its 787 Dreamliner flight tests could delay first delivery of the anticipated aircraft into the first part of 2011. Still, the company expects an uptick in new plane demand over the next two decades.
787 program General Manager Scott Fancher said Boeing have not yet decided if the first delivery to Japan’s All Nippon Airways will be moved to a later date. Presently, the first delivery is scheduled by the end of this year.
Fancher stated “We’ve seen some issues recently that have pushed our schedule margin a bit.” The issues relate to “instrument configuration” and inspection work. He also said the possible delay is not related to plane operations. “We wanted to give a little bit of a cautionary note that things could push into the first part of next year,” Fancher said. “Our schedule still shows delivery for the end of the year.”
The 787 is already behind its original schedule for more than two years. Production of the plane was delayed five times in three years. The first flight was postponed six times because of parts shortages, design problems and a two-month strike at Boeing’s factory in 2008.
Boeing temporarily stopped flying its test 787s last month after identifying a problem affecting the horizontal tail.
Boeing also announced last Thursday that it has chosen North Charleston, South Carolina, as the location to build a new facility to make parts for the Dreamliner’s interior. Construction is expected to begin in this year’s fourth quarter.
Maiden flight of the 787 Dreamliner