First 787 already in retirement?!

Photo Courtesy Boeing

What is the retirement age of a airplane after all? The brand new, yet to land at your nearest airport, Boeing 787 already has a plane in retirement! SeattlePi reports that Google Earth has spotted the first 787 running for president of a Florida retirement home . Ok, that was a Sienfeld episode I love. The plane in question was spotted in equally sunny Palmdale, CA. This is the aircraft ZA004 (serial # N7874, according to, one of the first 787s used for flight testing and FAA certification. Now that the testing is over, the planes are no longer needed. For whatever reason, this plane is not deemed flightworthy and has hence been retired to its new home. I don’t know what happened to other test planes.

For aircraft enthusiasts, a must visit site is Boeing’s Other than the 787, it also covers the new 747-8 series planes. A very well made site indeed. Airbus has it’s own Airbus Aircraft Families site.

If you are aware of any good sites on Aircraft, please share them by leaving a comment.

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  1. Most test planes never see passenger service. I remember seeing Concorde (#3 I believe) retired at Duxford after serving as a prototype. I don’t think 747 #1 flew passengers either.

  2. Part of the issues with the very first 787’s are is they are way over weight and in some cases, have been rebuilt more than once.

    Thus, are range affected, and airlines don’t want to touch these with a barge pole sadly.

    Unless they offload them on the cheap as long range private jets, the best they can do with the these birds is to scrap them off and learn how to deal with how to deal with composite scrapping.

    A shame….

  3. Nice post. The early retirement of ZA004 (N7874?) has been well covered in the media for a couple of months. It is not that the airplane is not airworthy – it is and in all respects. The primary reason that it was not sold to a line customer for regular operations is that its construction included a LOT of connectors and fasteners that were (and are not) approved for commercial use. SOme of this was known early on and other parts were discovered much later. The direct labor costs of replacing all of the non-certified fasteners are simple more than the plane is worth. ZA004 was always intended to be an experimental airframe, much like the traditional prototypes that airframers no longer build. Many major components were experimental. While perfectly safe, many of those components were far heavier than similar parts used in production block aircraft, resulting in an airplane that weighs far more than the production units – and one that can never meet Boeing’s fuel burn and efficency standards. The re-work list to bring ZA004 up to both certificate compliance and weight/performance standards is simply not cost-effective. As far as we know, ZA004 remains fully airworthy, save the recently removed engines. If Boeing finds the need to flight test future components, ZA004 could easily be made to fly again. Boeing would probably find other, less costly means for future testing, but it IS well within the realm of possible. We note that ZA004 has been put into dry storage, but the airframe has damn sure not been assigned to the crap heap! Not even close. Given Boeing’s back-log of post-production, pre-delivery re-work needs, storage space as Paine Field is extremely tight. If they had the space at Paine, I suspect that ZA004 would be sitting in a sheltered stall in Everett, awaiting her next testing assignment. While she cannot be sold and operated in the commercial environment, the airframe is far from dead.

  4. Agreed, it’s still airworthy, but riddled with unapproved fasteners, connectors and holes. It’s possible but unlikely, we could see it again as a testbed, which Boeing has done in the past (707 and beyond).

    However, Boeing has other plans for it.

    I was aboard 003 recently and spent some time with a Dreamliner test pilot. They pointed out the fastener/etc. issue, but told me the plane is in the desert, with the engines pulled, to protect it.

    Boeing put it to bed, to save it for a museum.

    Sweet Dreams!

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