Boeing has announced that the Dreamliner 787 will not fly until the second quarter of next year, and that the first of the ‘plastic fantastics’ will not be delivered to All Nippon Airways until sometime in the first quarter of 2010.

But on 26 September Boeing said the prototype of the medium sized twin engined jet would fly before the end of this year ‘most likely’ and firmly committed in a joint statement with the Japanese carrier that it would receive its first Dreamliner in August of next year. Or as little as five weeks after it now expects to begin test and certification flights.

This is about as clear an indication as any that Boeing has lost the plot, and cannot be trusted to tell the time never mind give airlines that have ordered tens of billions of dollars worth of this aircraft any reliable information.

The most authoritative information so far provided about the Dreamliner comes from an internal Airbus assessment leaked by Flightblogger, Jon Ostrower, on 4 December. Boeing has not yet explained why its customers, shareholders and employees should have to get factual information about this project from a dossier compiled by its major competitor by talking to insiders in the large and apparently dysfunctional design and supply chain of Dreamliner risk sharing partners in Japan, China, Italy and France and even the US.

There are other alarming aspects of the latest delay announcement from Boeing. One is that it took tough questioning and a magnifying glass for analysts in the US to establish that the supposed major reason for the delays, a two month machinists strike in Seattle was a very small part of delays caused by design revisions and rectifications and Boeing’s inability after decades of practice to fit the right type of rivets into their intended holes.

The other issue is that Boeing appears to leaving as little as nine months between intended first flight and first delivery for a revolutionary design. The original bright eyed and apparently totally fictitious certification program involved six test aircraft and a six month flight program. Nine months is not credible either.

These delays have remorselessly screwed into the ground the original Qantas plan for its order of 65 Dreamliner plus up to another 50 on option or subject to purchase rights. It is really obvious that many of the oldest jets in the mechanically challenged Qantas fleet that have been an element in the airline’s operational and labor relations problems this year were to have been replaced around about now and into 2009 by new low maintenance 787s. How does 2011, or maybe 2012 sound?

Given the calibre of disclosure and actual performance by Boeing, there is reason for grave alarm about the future of this jet, with Qantas, or anyone.

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