Boeing has a new definition of wing. It is ‘side of airplane’.

This means it wasn’t really the wing that was starting to break two months ago under static testing, it was just the side of the Dreamliner. Easily fixed. Could have flown on time. Nothing to worry about.

This tripe, swallowed in its entirety by the media at the conference call that announced the indefinite postponement of the first flight, is not going to go down very well at Qantas, which is concluding a review of its order for 65 of the Dreamliners and 50 purchase rights or options.

Some figures to contemplate. The 787-8 is currently around 7.5 tonnes overweight and showing a burn of around 4% more fuel than necessary to meet the performance that Qantas thought it was buying.

This is discouraging in a jet which has now twice shown an inability to handle the structural loads required, once in the central wing box, and once on the ‘side of the airplane’ which is actually the start of the wing.

If Boeing can’t call a wing a wing, and the media is so thick it doesn’t know when it is being had, that situation could go from bad to extremely bad without real warnings or discussions at a public level.

There is no credibility left in Boeing’s pronouncements on this project, nor in today’s implausible suggestions that it wasn’t until after more gung ho game changing humbug came from its executives in Paris last week that, well, shucks, it turns out that we can’t really fly the thing with metal patches over the weak plastic bits like we intended after all. What an astonishing load of cobblers!

What might Qantas do? We don’t know what it will do but we can reasonably speculate that it mightn’t throw any more money at the order as it stands, and at the very least, will wait and see what the future options from Boeing and Airbus may point to, either in a Dreamliner that is a convincing reworking of the jet, or an A350 that might do the job for the right price at the right time.

It would not be easy for any airline to work out what that ‘right time’ would be either, without knowing when the passenger demand and yields will come back from the current unsatisfactory depressed levels.

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