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Jun 24, 2009

Bad times at Boeing, Dreamliner delayed again pending further design fixes

There is no new schedule for flight testing of the Boeing Dreamliner following the postponement of the first flight due by 30 June because of the discovery in April of design deficienci

There is no new schedule for flight testing of the Boeing Dreamliner following the postponement of the first flight due by 30 June because of the discovery in April of design deficiencies in the area where the wing joins either side of the fuselage of the high composite ‘plastic’ airliner.

Boeing issued this statement a short time ago:-

EVERETT, Wash., June 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Boeing (NYSE: BA) today announced that first flight of the 787 Dreamliner will be postponed due to a need to reinforce an area within the side-of-body section of the aircraft. The need was identified during the recent regularly scheduled tests on the full-scale static test airplane. Preliminary analysis indicated that flight test could proceed this month as planned. However, after further testing and consideration of possible modified flight test plans, the decision was made late last week that first flight should instead be postponed until productive flight testing could occur. First flight and first delivery will be rescheduled following the final determination of the required modification and testing plan. It will be several weeks before the new schedule is available. The 787 team will continue with other aspects of testing on Airplane #1, including final gauntlet testing and low-speed taxiing. Work will also continue on the other five flight test aircraft and the subsequent aircraft in the production system.Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes said a team of experts has already identified several potential solutions.”Consideration was given to a temporary solution that would allow us to fly as scheduled, but we ultimately concluded that the right thing was to develop, design, test and incorporate a permanent modification to the localized area requiring reinforcement. Structural modifications like these are not uncommon in the development of new airplanes, and this is not an issue related to our choice of materials or the assembly and installation work of our team,” Carson said.

There will be consequences from this. After the disgraceful and premeditated misleading statements made by Boeing officials on the roll out of the joke first 787 on 8 July 2007 (hence the 7-8-7 symbolism using the US month-day-year calendar format) the program continues to flounder. The 787-8, the first model in the family, was to have flown by the end of September 2007 and been delivered to All Nippon Airways in May 2008.

Qantas was to have received the first 8 of its 65 unit order for service with Jetstar by December of that year. And then the first 15 by December of the next year.

At the end of last September Boeing solemnly promised first delivery of a 787 to All Nippon by this August. The management of this company has not made a single correct call on this airliner in any public statement since well before the sham roll out.

This management has overseen the deskilling of the work force at Everett to the extent that it couldn’t even fit the right bolts (fasteners) into the right holes in the still born mini fleet of test aircraft. It couldn’t even design the centre wing box properly, requiring its replacement. It can’t deliver on the performance promises made for the jets to the extent that the customers have run away from taking delivery of the first 20 or so because they will be too heavy. And this is a super light weight jet that was going to save (variously) 20% in fuel burn and 20% in weight compared to other twin aisle long haul 300 passenger jets.

This was the jet Qantas choose to perform critical functions with Jetstar and the main carrier including reclaiming lost territory by launching low fare services to markets where it had been forced out by Singapore Airlines, Thai, Malaysian, Emirates and others.

The 787 was crucial to the delivery of a new era in cost efficient maintenance. It was going to speed the retiring of an aged and increasingly unreliable fleet of 767s. It was going to make the Qantas/Jetstar A330 fleet an interim fleet.

Qantas has been made to look incredibly foolish by Boeing. There will be consequences.

Boeing’s delusional insistence that it can flight test and certify the 787 in as little as eight months (originally six months) points to the gravest of failures of management, in that hype is being presented as reality.

Boeing’s management needs to explain what it did with the great resource of design and engineering brilliance that culminated in the 777 program. Where are these people, why aren’t they employed in Seattle, delivering the outstanding airliners that have been associated with this once great company from the mid 50s to the mid 90s. Who killed this company’s brilliance and for what benefit?

These sorts of issues seem to percolate as well into the Boeing 748 program, which is running late, and the Wedgetail airborne early warning and command aircraft that Australia was suckered into ordering and which consistently fails to meet targets.

For the 787 to enter service for any airline any time in 2010 it has to pass its deep freeze or cold soak tests in the high Arctic by the end of February next year.

If it fails to meet that requirement the 787 will not achieve certification under current, and one imagines, unchangeable rules in relation to cold proofing an airliner, until no sooner than March of 2011.

Update An ultrasonic inspection detected “small areas, as small as 1 to 2 inches, where we saw a slight separation of composite layers within the part,” Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Leach says.

This is also called delamination, where the layers of reinforced carbon fibre glued together with resins and baked in a large oven have started to break or peel apart.

In a structure that hasn’t yet flown, and is required to hang together under 150% of the maximum designed load factor to achieve certification, this is a serious problem.


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2 thoughts on “Bad times at Boeing, Dreamliner delayed again pending further design fixes

  1. AIRLINE BIZ Blog | The Dallas…. Boeing 787 Dreamliner Delayed Again |…. | Total Info

    […] EVERETT, Wash., June 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Boeing (NYSE: BA) today announced that first flight of the 787 Dreamliner will be postponed due to a need to reinforce an area within the side-of-body section of the aircraft. The need was identified during the recent regularly scheduled tests on the full-scale static test airplane. Preliminary analysis indicated that flight test cRead more at http://blogs.crikey.com.au/planetalking/2009/06/24/bad-times-at-boeing-dreamliner-delayed-again-pend… […]

  2. Josh

    What a deliberately misleading statement from Boeing. What does a statement “small areas, as small as 1 to 2 inches” mean? It doesn’t tell the reader anything about the largest areas.