Very little original news on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner comes to light in Australia, and it is very obvious from what Qantas has to say on the topic that it isn’t always finding out about developments from Boeing before it reads them in Flightblogger or in The Seattle Times.
The latest edition of the latter is not going to be good reading for Qantas, or Jetstar, which is supposed to get its first Boeing 787-8 in June 2012. In their dreams.
Now we have a detailed story by Dominic Gates in The Seattle Times which quotes Scott Fancher the head of the Dreamliner program confirming rumors of a discussion about reliability and electrical issues with the FAA.
Gates’ story is a must read. Because those issues, which he explores, include the FAA indicating it cannot grant ETOPS approval out of the box, so to speak, for an airliner it regards as insufficiently reliable to be allowed to fly long and remote trans polar and trans oceanic routes. Without the usual ETOPS 180 approval which allows a twin engined airliner to fly as far as three hours at single engine speed from a diversionary airport in the event of an engine failure the 787 is useless for the purposes for which Qantas ordered it way back in December 2005 for deliveries starting in August 2008.
Another irony in the report, which Gates doesn’t develop, is Boeing’s commitment to find a way to dehumidify the cabin and stop a problem called ‘rain in the plane’. A humid cabin was one of the selling points of the original carbon fibre reinforced plastic Dreamliner, which has now become a heavy metal reinforced carbon fibre reinforced plastic airliner which Boeing has to somehow ‘dry out’. Especially around the electrical bays, as this is also a jet that relies more than any before on engine generated power rather than bleed air power for a number of functions including cabin pressurisation.
Apart from some return-to-base flights, the 787 test and certification fleet has been grounded since the second of the prototypes, ZA002 caught fire shortly before making an emergency landing and evacuation at Laredo, Texas, on November 9. Fancher then promised an update on the impact the incident would have on the program within two weeks, or nearly a month ago.
It could be argued that Fancher’s willingness to talk to The Seattle Times serves the common strategy of image managers and publicists to soften up the market or customers in advance of the punch lines concerning the extent of the problems and the delays these will add to the long overdue deliveries to the airlines. There is speculation of an announcement just before Christmas.
However this story suggests that as well as yet another delay the 787 could fail to match the initial mission critical requirements that the airlines had in mind when they ordered it.
Think about it. The 787 could be delivered three to four years late and unfit for the range and payload performances the airlines thought they were buying.