Boeing 787 – “‘For God’s sake get on with it.”
Boeing’s Dreamliner test fleet is still grounded after a fire on board one of the 787s at the beginning of this month. The company says it will announce a revised Dreamliner program schedule in the next couple of weeks.
Every analyst who tracks Boeing has a different guess as to when the first 787 will be delivered.
Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia, Vice President with the Teal Group Corporation, isn’t as pessimistic as some who think we won’t see any Dreamliners roll out the door for delivery next year.
“I don’t believe the worst case scenarios that say the first quarter of 2012 now, but on the other hand it’s also quite fair to say that there’s no way the current timeline can hold,” says Aboulafia.
Hans Weber, founder of Tecop International, says the latest delay will “push it into the second quarter of next year, rather than the first quarter.”
Boeing is now trying to fix two problems. First, the technical one involving its Dreamliner. Boeing says it is developing “minor design changes” to power panels on the 787 and updates to the systems software that manages and protects power distribution on the airplane.
Engineers determined the incident on one of its 787s started as either a short circuit or an electrical arc in the a power distribution panel. There are five major power distribution panels in the Dreamliner.
Although Boeing hasn’t released a timeline for the changes, Weber says 787 hardware and software revisions will take “awhile” to implement.
“Whenever such modifications occur there’s a long tail of design approvals, of putting the design changes into the aircraft, and validating that these design changes truly perform as they were supposed to,” Weber says.
The other problem is more tricky to fix – investor and public perception about Boeing’s 787 program.
“Time to prove themselves capable of delivering the 787 has long past,” says Aboulafia. “You’re looking at a three year delay. Is it a couple months short of three years? Is it a couple months after three years? At this point I don’t think it matters much. People are just saying ‘for God’s sake get on with it, make it happen and we’ll believe in the program’s performance just as soon as deliveries begin.'”
Weber says Boeing’s delays have not helped the company’s credibility.
The 787, is in demand and both analysts say it’s the key to Boeing’s financial future. There are almost 850 orders for the Dreamliner, which has more advance orders than any plane in history.
All Nippon Airways is supposed to get the first Dreamliner deliveries. ANA placed the first order for 50 of the 787s in 2004.
Some of Boeing’s customers have been grumbling about the delays. Last week Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker told Bloomberg news Boeing’s 787 program has “very clearly failed.”
This photo (from Boeing.com) was taken December 15, 2009, when the Dreamliner took off for the first time. It departed from Paine Field in Everett with about 12,000 employees and others watching. As this test plane was taking off, Boeing said they expected the first delivery in the fourth quarter of this year. In August of this year, Boeing pushed the delivery date back to the first quarter of 2011, and now the schedule has slipped again with the latest problems to an electrical panel.
Boeing premiered the 787 at a rollout ceremony on July 8, 2007 (7/8/07). The company originally planned for a first flight by August of that year. A series of three-month and six-month delays has brought to the end of 2010 with no firm date set for a delivery of the Dreamliner.