SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/358418_dreamliner10.html

Boeing confirms another 787 delay

Company is under pressure to deliver

Last updated April 9, 2008 8:53 p.m. PT

By JAMES WALLACE
P-I AEROSPACE REPORTER

After a third embarrassing delay that will push back deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner by another six months, The Boeing Co. is under the gun to finally deliver on a revised and much more conservative schedule.

“There are no technical inventions here. It’s a matter of burning through the work,” 787 boss Pat Shanahan said in a conference call with media and analysts to explain the latest delays.

The program is about 15 months behind schedule.

First flight, originally set for late August or September 2007, has slipped again, this time from June until sometime in the fourth quarter.

And customers won’t get the first Dreamliners until the third quarter of 2009. Under Boeing’s original schedule, deliveries were to begin next month.

Shanahan and Scott Carson, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said they are confident the new schedule can be met. It is more conservative and has built-in “margins” in case other issues come up, they said.

Boeing has nearly 900 orders for the Dreamliner.

“I believe in this airplane,” Carson said. But he added that he knows Boeing will be judged by “our actions … not on our words.”

Industry analysts said Boeing must come through this time.

“This is the last chance to retain their customers’ trust,” said Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group, a consulting firm. “Their credibility has taken a hit, but they can make it good if they keep to the new schedule. This is a schedule they say is conservative. If it’s for real, the world will forgive them for everything.”

Instead of delivering 109 jets by the end of next year, Boeing drastically cut that number to only 25.

Boeing also said it will ramp up 787 production at a slower and more traditional pace. It expects to be producing 10 planes a month at its Everett factory in 2012 rather than in 2010.

Investors reacted by sending Boeing shares to the biggest one-day gain since November 2006. Boeing shares rose $3.58 to close at $78.60.

J.B. Groh of D.A. Davidson said the announcement of only a six-month delay was “a bit of a relief.” A longer delay would have signaled more serious problems. On the other hand, a shorter delay would have been viewed as unrealistic, he said.

Shanahan said progress has been made in getting the remaining work done on the first flight test plane. But two issues, he said, drove the newest delay of two months in turning on the plane’s internal power, which now won’t happen until June.

One involves the center wing box, the massive structure where the wings are attached to the fuselage. It must be strengthened with about 200 clips and brackets and about 500 fasteners, he said.

And doing this rework slowed critical wiring in that part of the fuselage.

The other issue has been the amount of travel work, or unexpected jobs that Boeing workers must accomplish because of work that traveled from its partner facilities to the Everett plant. Not enough progress has been made in catching up on that work, he said.

Boeing’s two biggest unions, which represent engineers and the machinists who assemble its jets, quickly weighed in, blasting the company for outsourcing much of the 787 work to partners.

“Boeing outsourced everything it could to lower costs, and it’s hurting this program and the company,” said Ray Goforth, executive director of the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace. “Employees are performing heroic efforts to get the 787 back on track, and they are getting no help from corporate leaders in Chicago who consistently ignored the truth coming from employees in engineering offices and the factory floor.”

Tom Wroblewski, president of the local Machinists union, suggested that he and Carson spend a week on the 787 assembly line.

“Let’s go to the plant floor and listen to the experts who have been building airplanes for 73 years,” he said.

Four planes are in final assembly at the Everett plant — two for ground tests and the first two flight test planes.

Six planes will be used for the 787 flight-test program, which will last eight months. Shanahan said all six planes should be flying by early next year.

Sections of the third flight-test plane will arrive at the end of the month, Boeing said, with sections for the fourth arriving in June. The condition of assembly of the third flight-test plane is about 75 percent better than the first plane, Boeing said.

Cai von Rumohr of Cowen and Co. said it will take awhile to know if Boeing will be able to meet the latest schedule.

“We continue to believe that the critical milestone for determining whether all the bad news is on the table is apt to be a week or two after first flight,” he said in a note to investors.

He also said Boeing faces charges of more than $4 billion because of the delays and late penalty payments that will have to be made to customers. That’s as much as Boeing earned in 2007.

Carson would not discuss how much Boeing will have to pay unhappy customers. He said it will be awhile before Boeing knows just how many of the nearly 900 Dreamliners that it has sold will be delivered late.

Boeing said its 2008 financial projections have not changed, and it will provide more details when it reports first-quarter earnings on April 23.

The first Dreamliner customer, All Nippon Airways of Japan, issued a harsh statement in response to the latest delay.

“We are extremely disappointed. This is the third delay in the delivery of the first aircraft, and we still have no details about the full delivery schedule,” the airline said in an e-mailed statement. “We would urge Boeing to provide us with a 120 percent definitive schedule as soon as possible.”

In addition to the initial 787- 8 model, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines are the only customers for a short-haul version called the 787-3.

That variant was to come next, but Boeing said the second model produced will be the bigger 787-9. Delivery of that plane, though, will be delayed from late 2010 until early 2012.

Boeing did not give a schedule for entry into service of the 787-3. There has been speculation that Boeing won’t go ahead with its development.

John Leahy, chief operating officer for Airbus, told The Wall Street Journal he does not believe the delays will benefit Airbus unless Boeing discovers a serious design issue; Carson and Shanahan said there are none.

Airbus is developing the A350 to compete against the 787. The first variant of the Airbus plane is set to enter service in 2013. It is bigger than the 787.

Aboulafia, the Teal Group analyst, said he doubts Boeing will lose any orders because of the delays.

“It is the only game in town,” he said. “There are few places for customers to defect to.”


P-I aerospace reporter James Wallace can be reached at 206-448-8040 or jameswallace@seattlepi.com. Read his Aerospace blog at blog.seattlepi.com/aerospace

 

Thursday, April 10, 2008 – Page updated at 10:00 AM

Permission to reprint or copy this article or photo, other than personal use, must be obtained from The Seattle Times. Call 206-464-3113 or e-mail resale@seattletimes.com with your request.

MIKE SIEGEL / THE SEATTLE TIMES

These Dreamlifters sitting at Paine Field in January are modified Boeing 747s used to carry huge parts of the 787 made by the Dreamliner’s suppliers to the Everett plant for final assembly.

 

Dreamliner delivery plans

NUMBER OF PLANES to be delivered by the end of 2009:

112

Original estimate

109

Revised

(October 2007)

25

Latest

Latest delay of Boeing 787 pushes back first delivery to third quarter of 2009

Seattle Times aerospace reporter

Boeing now expects to deliver the 787 Dreamliner between 14 and 16 months late — yet industry analysts greeted the plan as good news, saying the company Tuesday finally gave them a schedule they could believe.

The first deliveries of the strong-selling new airplane already had been postponed twice before Wednesday’s announcement of a new six-month delay. But many Boeing watchers took the latest bad news as affirmation that things were no worse than expected.

“We’ve just heard the last 787 delay call,” said Joe Campbell, a Lehman Brothers analyst. “I think they’ll make this schedule from here in. They can do this.”

Boeing originally planned to deliver its first 787 next month.

According to the new schedule laid out by Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Scott Carson, the plane won’t fly until October and won’t be delivered until the third quarter of next year.

Boeing also said it will build the planes more slowly, so its customers will get only 25 Dreamliners next year, rather than the 109 proposed last fall. It will ramp up production to 10 per month by 2012.

That small 2009 delivery total reassured observers because it seems more realistic than the previous forecast.

Boeing “finally came up with a number that makes sense,” said another prominent Wall Street analyst who asked not to be named because his investment bank doesn’t permit him to be quoted in the media.

Boeing’s shares rose almost $4 on the news, closing at $78.60

Company officials had previously blamed Boeing’s major supplier partners in Italy; Japan; Charleston, S.C.; and Wichita, Kan.; for the delays in finishing the first airplane, which was rolled out to great fanfare last July but is still not expected to be ready to fly for another six months.

During Wednesday’s conference call, 787 program chief Pat Shanahan admitted the supply chain remains his biggest worry.

“Where do I think the inherent risk is? I think it’s in the capabilities of the supply chain to do the things that we need to have done,” said Shanahan “That’s the untested part of this production model…. That’s where our energy and attention is.”

Not surprisingly, local union officials had another take on the supplier situation.

Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinists union District 751, said in a statement that it was past time for “bringing the production of components to the place Boeing has called home for more than 70 years.”

“Bring work back”

Likewise, the company’s white-collar engineering union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace (SPEEA), called on Boeing “to correct its flawed reliance on global partners and bring the work back.”

“Sending engineers around the world to help suppliers simply transfers all the aerospace knowledge to other companies in other countries,” said SPEEA’s executive director, Ray Goforth.

Campbell, of Lehman Brothers, in an analytical note published last week ahead of the announcement, estimated that a 14- to 16-month delay would add between $3 billion and $5 billion in extra manufacturing costs and customer contract penalties.

He said the outsourcing of 787 production creates a split: Problems arise at the suppliers, but “the program fixes and ultimately the program costs mostly reside with Boeing. It’s still their airplane.”

Boeing will ultimately suffer a considerable hit to its bottom line from the delay.

But the impact is obscured by its accounting method, which spreads the massive costs of a jet-development program over hundreds of aircraft and many years.

Although research-and-development costs will likely increase as a result of the schedule change, Carson said, Boeing expects no change to its 2008 profit forecast, and profit growth in 2009 should also be strong.

Meanwhile, Boeing has moved to help its suppliers financially, because they ordinarily don’t get paid for their work until an airplane is delivered.

In a filing Wednesday with the Securities Exchange Commission, Spirit AeroSystems of Wichita, which makes the forward fuselage and cockpit of the 787, said Boeing has agreed to pay in advance for the 45 nose sections the supplier had originally contracted to deliver in 2008. Spirit will get about $387 million this year.

Under the original contract, Spirit wouldn’t have been paid until the plane was certified.

But with the delays stretching past a year, all the major suppliers balked at Boeing’s request to continue producing parts without any money coming in for the work, as if they were subsidiaries of Boeing.

“For Spirit it’s great,” said the Wall Street analyst who requested anonymity. “For Boeing, it keeps the supply chain going and motivated.”

Help for partner

That was part of the reason Boeing last month bought out Vought’s share of the Charleston 787 fuselage-assembly plant, providing financial relief to the Dallas-based partner that still builds the rear fuselage sections in Charleston.

The suppliers didn’t get all the blame in Tuesday’s conference call by Boeing executives, though.

Boeing recently discovered in a structural test that the center wing-box — a heavy piece that holds the wings — needed to be redesigned.

Shanahan blamed “an analysis error” for the problem, which caused a month’s delay in finishing the plane’s midsection.

Cai von Rumohr, an analyst with Cowen & Co., said the center wing-box error is “kind of a biggie,” and that until the airplane flies, “there’s still residual risk.”

Shanahan said that Dreamliner No. 1 is slowly nearing completion, with the wings nearly ready and the forward fuselage progressing.

“As my boss tells me, don’t confuse effort with results. Get the airplane built,” he said. “I feel confident about the path forward.”

Shanahan said he has built extra margin into the new schedule to cover unforeseen problems. The ramp-up of production to 10 a month will be prudent, and Boeing may increase that rate later.

Ultimately, Boeing must pay its airline customers for the 787 delays. It will take years to work out the penalty payments.

John McMahon, chief executive of Irish airplane-leasing company Genesis, said that given the looming global economic downturn, some airlines will find “it may not be such a bad thing” that their high-priced new assets are pushed out a year.

Airlines who wanted new planes for growth will be harder hit than those who want to replace older planes, whose lives can be extended, McMahon said. But all will likely complain bitterly to Boeing of the harm they are suffering.

Last chance?

Is this latest revision of the schedule Boeing’s last chance to get the Dreamliner right?

In reality, no. The Dreamliner is the only midsize new airplane on the horizon. Airbus’ A350 won’t be delivered earlier than 2013 and likely will be later.

“It can’t be a last chance,” said a senior executive with an international airline that has 787s on order, speaking on condition he not be identified. “What other choices do we have to get airplanes in 2011 or 2012?”

Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or dgates@seattletimes.com

 

Dreamliner delays

 

 

First flight

First delivery

Original timeline

Aug. 27, 2007

May 2008

Revised (Oct. 2007)

March 2008

Nov.-Dec. 2008

Revised (Jan. 2008)

June 2008

Left open

Latest (April 2008)

Oct.-Dec. 2008

July-Sept. 2009

 

 

James Wallace on Aerospace

boeingairplanemanufacturingairbusEADSSeattle

« UPDATE: 787 briefing | Main  

Updated: Boeing delays 787 for third time

Boeing, as expected, on Wednesday announced the third major delay of its 787 Dreamliner.

Executives will give a detailed update on the program shortly and I’ll have complete coverage afterward.

Boeing pushed back first flight by at least three months, and postponed first deliveries by about six months.

First flight won’t come until the fourth quarter of this year, rather than June.

The first 787 delivery, to Japan’s All Nippon Airways, will take place in the third quarter of next year.

“Our revised schedule is built upon an achievable, high-confidence plan,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Scott Carson said in a statement.

Boeing expects to deliver only 25 jets by the end of 2009, less than a quarter of its previous plan to deliver 109.

ANA just e-mailed me the following response:

We are extremely disappointed: this is the third delay in the delivery of the first aircraft, and we still have no details about the full delivery schedule. We would urge Boeing to provide us with a 120% definitive schedule as soon as possible.”

As it is night time in Japan we will not be able to get comment from our executives until morning. Thank you for your understanding.

This is the Boeing news release:

EVERETT, Wash., April 09, 2008 — Boeing [NYSE: BA] today announced a revised plan for first flight and initial deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner that includes additional schedule margin to reduce risk of further delays on the program.

While significant progress has been made assembling Airplane #1, first flight is being rescheduled due to slower than expected completion of work that traveled from supplier facilities into Boeing’s final assembly line, unanticipated rework, and the addition of margin into the testing schedule. The new delivery schedule is based on a more conservative production plan developed with the 787 partner team. That schedule now targets approximately 25 deliveries in 2009.

First flight of the all-new airplane will move into the fourth quarter of this year rather than the end of the second quarter, and first delivery is now planned for the third quarter of 2009 instead of first quarter.

Company officials expressed confidence in the new plan and the steps being taken to accelerate program performance.

“Over the past few months, we have taken strong actions to confront and overcome start-up issues on the program, and we have made solid progress,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Scott Carson. “Nevertheless, the traveled work situation and some unanticipated rework have prevented us from hitting the milestones we laid out in January. Our revised schedule is built upon an achievable, high-confidence plan for getting us to our power-on and first-flight milestones. Also, while the fundamental technologies and design of the 787 remain sound, we have inserted some additional schedule margin for dealing with other issues we may uncover in testing prior to first flight and in the flight test program.”

The company said in January it would be conducting a comprehensive assessment of its supply chain and production system capabilities to determine the details of the 787’s flight test program and initial delivery profile. As a result of that assessment, the first-year delivery plan announced today will be followed by a more gradual ramp up to full-rate production than previously planned.

“We deeply regret the disruption and disappointment these changes will cause for our customers, and we will work closely with each of them to minimize the impact,” said Carson. “We have taken significant action to improve supply chain and production system performance, such as our investment in Global Aeronautica, but based on our assessment, the prudent course is to proceed with a more gradual ramp up to full-rate production.”

Pat Shanahan, 787 vice president and program manager, echoed Carson’s comments about the progress being made in 787 factories.

“The work that remains to be done on Airplane #1 is well defined, and we can see our way to — and have confidence in — the new milestones we have set for it,” said Shanahan. “We have addressed the major challenges that slowed our progress while trying to complete the primary structure — the parts shortages, engineering changes, and manufacturing changes — and we are well into the systems installation that is the precursor to putting power on the airplane for the first time. We have also worked closely with our partners to achieve higher levels of completion of their parts of subsequent airplanes, and we will continue to drive improvements in the supply chain and production system performance,” he said.

For tracking program progress, Shanahan outlined a series of milestones that will occur before June 30: 787 static and fatigue structural test airplanes will move to their testing locations; Airplanes #3 and #4 will enter final assembly; hardware airworthiness qualifications will be complete; and power on will be achieved.

Shanahan also said the program has changed the timing of the introduction of two 787 derivatives. The 787-9, a larger variant of the airplane, will be the first derivative of the baseline 787 with delivery planned for early 2012. The 787-3, a shorter-range model previously slated to deliver in 2010, will now become the second derivative of the airplane family.

While research and development costs will likely increase as a result of the 787 schedule change, Boeing expects no change to 2008 earnings guidance. The company continues to expect strong earnings per share growth in 2009 and will provide complete 2009 financial guidance when it holds its first-quarter 2008 earnings conference call later this month. The outlook for the company’s defense business and in-production commercial airplane programs remains strong.

UPDATE:

The 787 conference call with Scott Carson and Pat Shanahan just ended. Highlights:

1. “Power on” is pushed back from April until June. This was the result of still too much travel work but also the center wing tank issue. The tank must be strengthened with 200 clips and brackets and about 500 more fasteners. The tank rework, which was described as “routine,” came at a bad time, when wiring was to be installed in the mid fuselage of the first flight test plane.

2. All six flight test planes should be flying by early 2009.

3. Boeing expects to have assembled 18 planes, not including the flight test planes, by the time the flight test program ends and the Dreamliner is certified.

4. 787-9 will be delivered in early 2012 rather than late 2010.
Scott Carson said Boeing continues to study the market for the short-haul 787-3, but at this point still plans to go forward with that model after the 787-9.

5. Current schedule has production hitting 10 planes a month by 2012. But Boeing can’t yet say how many of the nearly 900 planes sold will be late. Carson could not discuss late penalty payments, saying there must be “complex” talks with customers.

6. Static test plane No. 2 will be out of the 787 bay by the end of the month so assembly can begin on plane No. 3.

UPDATE 2:

Here is my story:

By James Wallace
P-I aerospace reporter

After a third embarrassing delay that will push back deliveries of its 787 Dreamliner by another six months, The Boeing Co. is under the gun to finally deliver on a revised and much more conservative schedule.

“There are no technical inventions here. It’s matter of burning through the work,” 787 boss Pat Shanahan said in a conference call with media and analysts to explain the latest delays.

The program is about 15 months behind schedule.

First flight, originally set for late August or September of 2007, has slipped again, this time from June until the 4th quarter.

And customers won’t get the first Dreamliners until the third quarter of 2009. Under
Boeing’s original schedule, deliveries were to begin next month.

Shanahan and Scott Carson, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said they are confident the new schedule can be met. It is more conservative and has built-in “margins” in case other issues come up, they said.

Boeing has nearly 900 orders for the Dreamliner.

“I believe in this airplane,” Carson said.

But Carson added that he knows Boeing will be judged by “our actions’not on our words.”

Industry analysts said Boeing must come through this time.

“This is the last chance to retain their customers’ trust,” said Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group, a consulting firm. “Their credibility has taken a hit but they can make it good if they keep to the new schedule. This is a schedule they say is conservative. If it’s for real, the world will forgive them for everything.”

Instead of delivering 109 jets by the end of next year, Boeing drastically cut that number to only 25.

Boeing also said it will ramp up 787 production at a slower and more traditional pace. It expects to be producing 10 planes a month at its Everett factory in 2012 rather than in 2010.

Investors reacted by sending Boeing shares to the biggest gain since November 2006. Boeing shares gained $3.58 to close at $78.60.

J.B. Groh of D.A. Davidson, said the announcement of only a six-month delay was “a bit of a relief.” A longer delay would have signaled more serious problems. On the other hand, a shorter delay would have been viewed as unrealistic, he said.

Shanahan said progress has been made in getting the remaining work done on the first test flight plane. But two issues, he said, drove the newest delay of two months in turning the plane’s internal power on. This important milestone won’t happen until June, he said.

One of those issues, he said, involves the center wing box, which is the massive structure where the wings are attached to the fuselage. It must be strengthened with some 200 clips and brackets and about 500 fasteners, he said.

And doing this rework slowed critical wiring in that part of the fuselage.

All the wire bundles are in the plane, he said. And the installation of the plane’s systems is well along.

The other issue responsible for the delay in “power on,” according to Shanahan, has been the travel work, or unexpected jobs that Boeing workers must accomplish because of work that traveled from its partner facilities to the Everett plant. Not enough progress has been made in catching up on that work, he said.

Six planes will be used for the 787 flight test program, which will last 8 months. Shanahan said all six planes should be flying by early next year.

Final assembly is already underway on the second flight test plane at the Everett factory.

Sections of the third flight test plane will arrive there at the end of the month, Boeing said, with sections for the 4th plane arriving in June.

The condition of assembly of the third flight test plane is about 75 percent better than the on the first plane, Boeing said. That’s up from a 50 percent improvement in the condition of assembly on the second plane.

Cai von Rumohr of Cowen and Co. said it will take a while to know if Boeing will be able to meet the latest schedule.

“We continue to believe that the critical milestone for determining whether all the bad news is on the table is apt to be a week or two after first flight,” he said in a note to investors.

He also said Boeing faces charges of more than $4 billion because of the delays and late penalty payments that will have to be made to customers. That’s as much as Boeing earned in 2007.

Carson would not discuss how much Boeing will have to pay unhappy customers. He said it will be a while before Boeing knows just how many of the nearly 900 Dreamliners that it has sold will be delivered late.

Boeing said its 2008 financial projections have not changed and it will provide more details when it reports first-quarter earnings on April 23.

The first Dreamliner customer, All Nippon Airways of Japan, issued a harsh statement in response to the latest delay.

“We are extremely disappointed. This is third delay in the delivery of the first aircraft, and we still have no details about the full delivery schedule,’ the airline said in an e-mailed statement. “We would urge Boeing to provide us with a 120% definitive schedule as soon as possible.”

In addition to the initial 787-8 model, All Nippon Airways, along with Japan Airlines, are the only customers for a short-haul version called the 787-3.

That variant was to come next, after the 787-8. But Boeing said the second model produced will be the bigger 787-9. Delivery of that plane, though, will be delayed from late 2010 until early 2012.

Boeing did not give a schedule for entry into service of the 787-3. There has been speculation that Boeing won’t go ahead with its development.

John Leahy, chief operating officer for Airbus, told the Wall Street Journal he does not believe the delays will benefit Airbus unless Boeing discovers a serious design issue – Carson and Shanahan said there are none.

Airbus is developing the A350 to compete against the 787. The first variant of the Airbus plane is scheduled to enter service in 2013. It is bigger than the 787.

Aboulafia, the Teal Group analyst, said he doubts Boeing will lose any orders because of the delays.

He noted the 787 is the only all-new plane of that size.

“It is the only game in town,” he said. “There are few places for customers to defect to.”

Posted by James Wallace at April 9, 2008 7:43 a.m.
Categories: 787 Dreamliner, Boeing

 

 

 

SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/358102_dreamliner08.html

Boeing likely to reveal new 787 delay

6-month setback would be third

Last updated April 7, 2008 10:42 p.m. PT

By JAMES WALLACE
P-I AEROSPACE REPORTER

The Boeing Co. will likely announce a delay of at least six more months for the 787 Dreamliner when executives provide an update on the program this week, according to a person with knowledge of the matter.

That would push the program back some 14 months from its original schedule, which had the first Dreamliners being delivered to airlines next month.

Boeing is now approaching the same kinds of delays with the 787 that Airbus experienced with its double-decker A380, which was about 18 months late.

Another 787 delay has been widely expected. Several industry analysts as well as the biggest customer for the plane have all predicted in recent weeks that Boeing would announce a delay of anywhere from six to nine months when it next updated the 787 program.

Boeing said Monday that update, for analysts and media, will come Wednesday, during a conference call with Scott Carson, chief executive and president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, and Pat Shanahan, vice president of the 787 program.

This will be the third major delay that Boeing has announced on the 787, and industry analysts say the company can’t afford a fourth.

The update call “will be critical for Boeing to rebuild credibility,” Douglas Harned of Bernstein Research said in a recent note to clients.

“It will be important for management to lay out a timeline of milestones, describe the path to meet those milestones and ensure that progress is visible to investors and customers,” he wrote.

Two of those milestones are what’s known as “power on” and first flight.

Boeing announced the first delay of six months in October. In January, Boeing announced another delay, this one of three months. At the time, Boeing said “power on” would probably not occur until early in the second quarter, with first flight slipping to the end of June. The 787 was originally supposed to have flown for the first time in late August or early September of 2007.

The “power on” milestone is significant because it means enough of the 787 systems and wiring have been installed so the first plane can operate under its own power.

Boeing also will provide a new 787 delivery schedule in its call Wednesday.

Since early this year, Boeing has been working closely with its 787 partners to better understand how quickly they can ramp up production.

Boeing has already acknowledged that it will not be able to deliver 109 planes as promised by the end of next year. Given another delay of at least six months, it is unlikely that Boeing will be able to deliver even half that many in 2009.

The 787 program delays are the result of mostly production-related issues, including a shortage of parts such as fasteners.

But there are also design issues. Boeing acknowledged last month, following public comments by Steven Udvar-Hazy, founder and chairman of International Lease Finance Corp. and the biggest 787 customer, that it will have to strengthen the center wing box, which is the key structure where the wings are attached to the fuselage. The center wing box also holds fuel.

But the biggest driver of the 787 delays has been Boeing’s global partners. They manufacture the composite wings and fuselage of the Dreamliner, and are supposed to install wiring and systems. Boeing is mostly responsible for final assembly of those large sections at its Everett plant.

One of those partners, Vought Aircraft Industries, has had the most problems in meeting 787 production requirements. Late last month, Boeing announced it is buying out Vought’s share of Global Aeronautica in Charleston, S.C. This is a joint venture with Alenia Aeronautica, another key 787 partner.

The Charleston facility is the 787 fuselage assembly hub, where fuselage sections made by Vought, Alenia and the Japanese are joined together before being flown to Everett for final assembly.

By buying out Vought’s share and taking a direct role in Global Aeronautica, Boeing is betting that it will be able to get the 787 program back on track.


P-I aerospace reporter James Wallace can be reached at 206-448-8040 or jameswallace@seattlepi.com. Read his Aerospace blog at blog.seattlepi.com/aerospace.

Advertisements