Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is on track to make its first flight in August 2007

While Airbus has run into some production snags with its A380 Superjumbo that have cost it customers, Boeing appears to be moving ahead on schedule with its smaller 787 Dreamliner. Boeing just recently announced that it has completed the "virtual rollout" of its new composite-bodied aircraft.

"Today's virtual rollout is the culmination of many months of effort by thousands of team members at Boeing and its 787 partners. Through the use of our new digital toolset, provided by Dassault Systemes, the team has proven the ability to manufacture 787 designs," said Mike Bair, VP and GM for the Dreamliner program.

Through the use of a powerful Dassault computer/software system, Boeing has been able to trim costs by 20% and cut a year from production on the Dreamliner. Engineers have also been able to see how parts will fit together in the virtual world before running into possible snags on a real production line.

"Our tools have enabled us to model the entire production process from our partners' factories to our own. We have found errors in simulation that would have been costly to find in production and have been able to design corrections quickly to keep the program on track," said Bair.

If you may recall, the Airbus A380 has been delayed by a year due to problems with the electrical harness which consists of 100,000 wires and 40,300 connectors. These problems were found during production rather than earlier in the design process of the aircraft.

Boeing is currently taking steps to reduce weight on the Dreamliner by switching from aluminum to titanium on some parts used in the aircraft. In order to meet the design targets for fuel efficiency and range, the switch to titanium is a necessity. Not surprisingly, the computer simulations have been instrumental in pointing out critical components that are ripe for the switch to titanium.

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is expected to make its first flight in August of 2007 with delivery starting in 2008. As of now, Boeing has orders for 458 planes from 37 customers.

"It's a challenge, no doubt about it. This is the team, all of us together -- our customers, our partners and each of us -- who will bring this airplane to life. It's an amazing journey from where we started just four years ago. But the best part is yet to come," said Bair.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation
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