Boeing’s Dreamliner project set a new marker for fantasy overnight when launch customer All Nippon Airways said it had reached agreement to take delivery of the first of the plastic twin engined 300 passenger airliners next August.

The 787-8 prototype has yet to fly. It has a flight test schedule of nine months. It has to pass a cold soak test in Siberia or Arctic Canada only possible between mid January and early March to complete its certification procedures. There is a strike in Seattle which has stopped work on its assembly and first flight is rumored to have slipped to late this year even without a strike. The prototype jet is unfinished and the whole program has been described by one of the client airline engineers as ‘very immature’.

The chances of ANA getting a service ready 787 next August are zero. If the jet misses its ordeal by ice early next year it cannot meet all of the requirements of flight testing and certification before March 2010.

Why is this important? If you own a little bit of Qantas it is more evidence that its order for 65 Dreamliners plus options or purchase rights for a further 50 is going to take a long time to arrive, yet it is a crucial plank of the airline’s fleet efficiency upgrade.

Boeing has already paid Qantas $291 million in liquidated damages in the year to June 30, a nice little contribution to its record pre tax profit of $1408 million, for late Dreamliners. In October 2007 Boeing insisted that the first Qantas group Dreamliners would be delivered by December this year for use by Jetstar.

But there is another reason why the Dreamliner fiasco is important. It is an example of the willful misrepresentation of reality by major corporations. Boeing is too good at what it does not to have known when it wheeled out the first 787 in a gala ceremony on 8 July 2007 that it would not fly for a long time. The jet presented had a plywood door, the landing gear was visibly incomplete and internal installations were missing. Yet Boeing insisted it could make its first flight by about the end of September and be certified in time for entry into service by All Nippon by July this year. This was seriously misleading rubbish.

The ceremony was a sham. When given an opportunity to take responsibility for this at a media briefing this week Boeing vice president marketing Randy Tinseth took cover behind the strike related delays and said a new timetable would be announced in the near future.

Boeing is a great company and the Dreamliner is an exciting and promising part of the process of reducing the release of excess fossilised carbon by curbing new airliner fuel consumption. But Boeing needs to take responsibility for promises and statements it has made which it must have known were based more on hype than reality. It needs to bring the 787 back to Earth, this Earth, not some juvenile fantasy earth.

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