LAN has spent the last 2.5 years preparing for the delivery of its first Boeing 787s. As of late July, Justin Siegel, director of fleet projects, including the 787, did not know the delivery date but said: “We will be service-ready by August.” That is good, because the delivery date is now set—Aug. 31. More than 1,000 LAN employees have received 787 training. Operations details have been double and triple checked. “You're not ready, but you are prepared,” he explains. “That's what keeps you awake.”

For the past couple of years, LAN worked two major projects in parallel. The first involved preparing for service and initiating training and the second is a 30-month effort to configure the cabin and establish specifications, says Siegel.

For the entry-into-service project, LAN, which will be the second operator of a Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-powered 787, developed a 787 working group with representatives from each operating area—including flight crew, airport services and engineering—to define a plan and set deadlines and training requirements before entry into service.

Establishing spare parts and tooling requirements at its Santiago base and at destinations to which it flies was one aspect. Siegel says: “We've taken Boeing's recommendations and made adjustments based on its failure rates and experience.” Part of that adjustment stems from the fact the manufacturer revised what it recommended to LAN eight times due to the aircraft's development. Because LAN does most line maintenance and about 40% of its heavy maintenance inhouse, it acquired all of the manufacturer's recommended line maintenance tooling as well as some that might be needed for unscheduled MRO.

LAN has worked closely with Japan Airlines, another Oneworld partner, to learn from its experiences. The same is true with All Nippon Airways (ANA), as well as carriers such as Air India and LOT that are set to receive 787s soon, says Siegel.

“We benchmark training, which parts are failing, and put it all together,” he explains.

Now, other carriers, such as AeroMexico, which have later delivery dates, are contacting LAN. AeroMexico and LAN have good technical cooperation, he says, and the Mexican carrier is scheduled to receive its first 787 in 2013.

A 787 transmits about 28 MB of data per flight, compared to 1 MB for the 777, according to Per Noren, VP of information services for Boeing Commercial Aviation Services, so airlines need to know how use that data, as well as how to connect to the airplane and test it digitally with a maintenance laptop. The 787 also has 1,500 areas of the aircraft or components that are controlled by software, says Siegel. LAN spent $1 million on infrastructure related to information technology (IT) to handle this e-enabled aircraft.

LAN is testing wireless connectivity at terminals and has installed wireless routers at its Santiago base. If all goes well, it could expand this availability to other airports, he says.

Training was another part of the 787 working group. LAN sent four pilots to Boeing in mid-July to become check airmen. Eric Greenhill, director of flight training, says about 75% of the pilots who will fly the 787 are transitioning from the 767; others from the A340. LAN initially trained about 50 pilots but that number will increase as 787 deliveries ramp up. Approximately 100 flight attendants started training then in Seattle, and they too are transitioning from 767s and A340s. Greenhill says about 600 will receive 787 ground training at LAN's facility in Santiago in which it partners with CAE. Greenhill, who was a LAN pilot for 24 years before becoming a flight instructor, says: “We get lots of [training] credits or courses with Boeing,” but he did not specify how many.

While LAN's full-flight simulators are booked solid—about 36,000 hr. per year—Greenhill points to an empty bay. “We haven't negotiated a 787,” but it's on his wish list. “There's an 18-month lead time after signing,” he says. “We've been growing a lot—it is an exciting time.”

LAN has trained 100 maintenance personnel and chose to go beyond Boeing's composite training basics. “When we started, it was the highest risk area,” says Siegel, so LAN maintenance and engineering staff took many courses—and eventually created its own as a supplemental aid. “We learned more and worried less.” This generates awareness and ideally instills a solid understanding of ramp damage and its possible effects.

LAN also developed in-house training to reinforce specific IT-enabling requirements.

When ANA's initial 787 incurred damage the first week and was struck by lightning shortly after, it probably caused consternation for future 787 operators. In cases like that, “we need a fast response from Boeing. We have several level agreements in place,” and will see how Boeing responds, says Siegel. “Boeing's response rate is critical, and we think they're prepared.”

The service preparation team also coordinated with local authorities to address aircraft certification and training requirements and documentation.

Switching gears to the 30-month cabin configuration project team, this group started by defining the cabin layout and class distribution. It decided on 217 economy-class and 30 premium-business-class seats for the 787-8. It then negotiated with seat suppliers, after which it finalized the seat certification and design, says Siegel. “In this process, we also include the color and decor work of the cabin, as well as the inflight entertainment and the customized graphic interface we have developed for our passengers,” he adds. It chose the Panasonic EX2 inflight entertainment system.

Rajmin Hessin, LAN's brand identity director, revealed the textures and colors are distinctive of South America, and the cabin has more light.

The first aircraft will service Santiago, Buenos Aires, Lima, Los Angeles, Madrid and Frankfurt in its first year.

LAN's second 787 is expected late in the year.