The Chart:

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Long Overdue First Flight for Line 1429

 Thanks to Matt Cawby for the photo:

Following in the footsteps of other long neglected frames that had to sit around for over two years before flying for the first time, like line 1426 for Korean Air Cargo (now in service) and line 1430 for AirBridgeCargo (also now in service), line 1429, likely destined for Saudi Arabian Cargo, went on a B1 today. Here are some less impressive pictures of her returning to KPAE:


Again, 1429's first flight is extra savory because she was not taken up by Atlas about two years ago, so her prospects of flying seemed especially distant. There's such a contrast between an unfinished frame inert and ungainly anchored to the ground, and a finished one soaring full speed through the sky. She rolled out from the FAL around August of 2010 and had engines on the whole time. Here she is at one of many storage locations (thanks to Lee A. Karas):

And here she is during refurbishment last year:

Next up is a paint job, and then finally delivery into service. Also, for remaining Atlas NTU frames 1432 and 1437: line 1432 should follow in 1429's footsteps in the next month or two, while line 1437 still has no apparent customer. Both frames are undergoing simultaneous refurbishment.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

747 talk at the Q4 2012 Earnings Announcment

From the announcement:

Jim McNerney
The 747-8 is producing at two airplanes per month, with 10 deliveries in the fourth quarter and 31 for the year. Customer satisfaction with the airplane’s performance remains high, as it has set a new industry standard for efficiency. We remain focused on improving production processes and program profitability while closely monitoring the softness in the cargo market.

From the QA:

Samuel J. Pearlstein - Wells Fargo Securities
If I could change gears from the 87 to just the 47, if I just look at that, it seems like for a wide body airplane, it’s going to take a lot longer in terms of configuration. I’m wondering, do you need to make a decision soon about 2014 rates, given a backlog of 67 airplanes? How do you sustain that at two per month?
Greg Smith
Well, the pipeline is pretty good. We are mindful that there is softness in the cargo market. So we are getting volume the old fashioned way on this program right now, which is finding customers, working with them. We’re very fortunate that the economics of this airplane, particularly in the cargo market, are very, very compelling. So notwithstanding a difficult market situation, as we sit here today we have confidence that we’re going to be able to hold rate.
But we’re going to be taking a look at it every quarter. But right now we have a good pipeline of folks that we’re working with that gives us confidence that we can hold rate. When that changes, we’ll discuss it.

Kind of underwhelming, at first read. I was hoping for a little more juice. This announcement seems much more reserved about the prospects of the plane compared to previous announcements.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Backed up

Just as it seemed Boeing was getting on top of things at Paine Field... just as their 787 backlog was starting to dwindle down to about ten stored jets... just as they delivered a bunch of 747s and pulled in the remaining stored frames for rework... well, I'm sure we all know the story. 787s aren't going anywhere, and it's not looking great from what little detail is in the news about it. Now they're even storing 767s for some reason.

On top of all this, 747s are languishing too. They've got twelve on the flight line: three undergoing refurbishment, seven test flying or waiting to test fly, one sitting in storage (although it should be ready to fly once they strap engines on it), and another preparing to enter a long term test program.

They should have another two rolling out any time now. Line 1473 for Cargolux should have shown up a couple weeks ago, and line 1474 for Korean Air Cargo should be popping out any day. That is, unless they've slowed down or delayed the production rate. Paine Field is looking to get mighty crowded soon.

Overdue frames 1420 and 1463 are caught in seemingly endless test flight loops. 1420 for Cargolux has done about ten test flight cycles since finishing refurbishment at Lackland AFB four months ago. Line 1463 for AirBridgeCargo had her first flight over two and half months ago, and is now on her B10 (or 12 if you count ferry flights for paint). Line 1469 for All Nippon Cargo has been doing some unusual test flights recently, flying around unpainted out to Hawaii and back, and going up to do loops over Oregon for nine straight hours. It's strange that the two frames before 1469 were delivered in under ten days each after their first flights, but since then everything is moving so slow. Maybe it's just the end of the year rush followed by the beginning of the year lull, or maybe it's the distractions from the 787 program, but it makes for a very boring blog.

In some exciting news, line 1429 (RC571) was scheduled for a first flight today, and although it didn't happen due to weather, it should happen soon. 1429 has been sitting around rejected, unloved, and unfinished for over two years, so it'll be marvelous to see her finally in the air.

Tomorrow is Boeing's earnings announcement. Hopefully some interesting updates and good news will come out of it.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lufthansa #5 First Flight

Line 1470 (RC026) D-ABYG for Lufthansa took off for the first time today. This will be Lufthansa's fifth 747-8I. She returned after less than an hour without completing the original flight plan.

Line 1472 (RC027) D-ABYH, also for Lufthansa, rolled off the final assembly line and to the fuel dock, unpainted.

They've started installing engines on line 1432, which adds credibility to the Saudi Arabian news from yesterday (Thanks to Matt Cawby for the pic).

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Test flights, Swiss International, Saudi Arabian adopts two early frames.

Lines 1420 and 1469 got up in the air today for some of the first test flights since The Great Fog of '13.

Here's line 1420 for Cargolux returning to base after a B-GodKnowsWhat flight. This frame has got to deliver sometime soon.

And line 1469 for NCA on an evening B2 flight, still unpainted.

Swiss International Airlines is considering a 747-8I order to replace its aging a340 fleet. Sounds good to me.

Bigger news is that Saudi Arabian Cargo is supposedly the purchaser of two early frames that were not taken up by Atlas. Line 1429 and 1432 are supposed to deliver to the airline this March. These frames had been sitting around KPAE for a couple years in storage, and have recently undergone or are undergoing refurbishment. 1429 is done, sitting on the flight line, and looks to be approaching a first flight. 1432 is still under the knife having started the process in November of 2012. It still needs engines as well. This is still unconfirmed, but it also sounds good to me; at least blog worthy. This would probably be the ID of the mysterious order for two 747-8Fs announced back in November.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Slow times at Paine Field

Things are slow on the 747-8 line. A couple test flights have been popping up, but most haven't gotten off the ground. Boeing seems to be having particular trouble getting line 1420 up in the air again, as it's had about four or five cancelled test flights over the last couple days. The weather has been perfect too, but maybe this has something to do with the delays today:

Anyway, line 1422 (RC522) JA12KZ finally flew off into service last week for Nippon Cargo. This frame did contractually deliver in 2012, so Boeing officially reached 31 747 deliveries for the year. This former test frame was the third 747-8 built, and it's good to see it go into revenue service after so long. The only test frames remaining to be delivered are 1420 (test #1), 1421 (test #2), and 1435 (8I test #2). 1420 should deliver soon, 1421 probably sometime this year, and 1435, well, who knows when. Probably not until 2014 or 2015, as it still has more testing to do.

In some extra 747-400 news, Southern Air picked up 747-400 line 1380, a former Jade Cargo jet that was parked in Pinal Airpark. Pic here. Southern is having their own money problems right now, but good to see this frame back in the air. There are rumors more ex Jade Cargo frames will be joining it soon. Still no word on Evergreen or Kalitta taking up some of these frames as well.

Update 1/18/2012: Seems the weather is getting better...
 Haha... Line 1463 got up today but line 1420 still was a no show.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2012 is Over.

Happy New Year.

I'm still not sure if there were 30 or 31 deliveries for 2012. Line 1422 was possibly delivered contractually but didn't fly off prior to the new year.

Either way, here's looking forward to an exciting new year in the 747 program. The flight test program should result in an even more efficient new jumbo, which hopefully will lead to more orders being finalized. Other than that, we have 20+ Freighters and 5 Internationals to watch coming off the line and going into service, as well as some more of the older stored frames, like Cathay's two remaining jets, which should deliver during the year. Maybe we'll find homes for a couple of the NTU frames? There's even another chance to possibly beat my contrived 31 frame delivery record, if things go just right.

There's a new tab under slow progress for late model 747-400 tracking. It's sort of arbitrary, but my goal is to track service for the more recent 747-400s, as they go in and out of service. This all stemmed from my interest in line 1416 in particular, which still sits unused, parked in the desert. The latest rumors have Evergreen taking up this frame instead of Kalitta, but due to Evergreen's current financial situation (they're routinely late on payroll amongst other really bad signs) these plans might change. There are also other low use frames in this range that should be interesting to follow, like the former Jade frames.