There is more to the overnight news of changes in the leadership of the Boeing 747-8F freighter and 747-8I passenger jet programs.
Boeing refused to show the jet off at the Farnborough Air Show in July citing program delays. It has never dealt in any categorical manner with claims that the wing is flawed by flutter issues, and only made passing references to a low speed vibration issue triggered by a poorly designed landing gear door.
For Boeing to admit that it couldn’t get the gear arrangements right for a version of the jet family which first flew more than 41 years ago is about as damning an insight into the state of the company as any.
Boeing is being less that forthright about the full delays to the project. The 747-8F freighter version (76 sold) hasn’t just slipped from the last quarter of this year to some time in 2011, but from late 2009, which was the original promise.
The passenger version was originally promised to Lufthansa for mid 2010, hasn’t even flown yet and seems unlikely to be deliverable until sometime in 2012. There are only 33 orders for the passenger version including one in VIP fit out to Kuwait.
It is reasonable to surmise that if Boeing doesn’t fix the wing and other issues on this jet promptly some of its customers will walk, and it wouldn’t take much by way of cancellations to kill it.
The 747 story deserves a better ending than this, but despite Joe Sutter’s best efforts as part of its Boeing’s advisory ‘kitchen cabinet’ the last chapter is looking a bit sad at this stage.