September 5, 2007

Update Rundown: First Flight Delayed

The conference call ended a little while ago and I wanted to give a rundown of what we heard.

It's worth noting that this writer attempted to ask a question on the call and was blocked from doing so.

Now to the key points:

- First flight has been delayed. It is expected to take place somewhere between Mid-November and Mid-December. Entry into service is still set for May 2008.

- The cause of the delay is two parts. Problem was first reported here at Flightblogger.
1. Temporary fasteners
- Lack of documentation
- Unavailability of permanent fasteners.
- 700something left to be installed.

2. Flight control software
- It's just not ready yet and working with Honeywell to resolve issues.

- Carson: A 1-3 month delivery day will not carry financial penalties.

- Aeroflot finalized its order for 787 bringing the total orders to 706

- Trent 1000 engines certified August 8. GENx certification program is proceeding.

- Once the flight test program begins a new aircraft will join 2-3 weeks. Testing will happen 24 hours a day 7 days a week. There is almost no buffer left.

- Boeing confirmed the re-sequencing of deliveries. The fatigue test will jump in front of Dreamliner Two which is now set to arrive in October.

- Static test rig will move to 40-23 later this month.


Anonymous said...

Hi Jon - You mentioned that you were blocked from asking a question.
1. What were you going to ask?
2. How did they 'block' you?
3. Did your question get answered anyway?

You should just feel proud you were even invited to listen in.

Scott Hamilton said...

Interesting that Boeing would block you. They invited several bloggers to their KC-767 rally Aug 6, paying for their expenses and flying them in on a corporate 737 BBJ.

Anonymous said...

Not to take anything away from Jon, but anyone could have listened to the call. I listened to the whole event. The link was posted on the investor relations website. Those who were in "listen only" mode (as I was) would not be able to ask questions.

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Anonymous said...

Its NOT a static test rig for the like billionth time! That is already installed over at 40-23.

The static test airframe will be moved later this month...

Anonymous said...

Jon: Why do you think they blocked you after inviting you? I'd guess they just had a list of people who they felt they had to call on, Dominic Gates and James Wallace the local reporters, the WSJ reporter Len Lumsford, some of the Wall Street crowd, etc. before they could take your question. Since all these people had to ask 2-4 questions each, they used up the time. I was expecting that they would take you at the end though. I think they have come to respect what's on your site, even if sometimes a bit uncomfortable. They brought up some of the items on the site without such as the bad paperwork, removing fasteners, etc.

Interesting that no one seems to have seen the Honeywell software issue in any detail--probably because need access to engineers and higher ups rather than floor team for these insights.

Even more interesting that Boeing stock was even up a bit for the day even though very marginally. Boeing says "short coverering".

I found it interesting that Boeing is losing about 3 months out of 9 months of flight test time--so a third of the time--and probably 20% of the flight test a/c availability and they still feel they can certify on time. Maybe someone knows about the Mike Baer comment that only about 50% of the flying hours are really for the certification and the rest are for Boeing data collection.

On the rest of the schedule, especially for LN002 its going to be very interesting to see how much "traveled work" out of GA and Wichita are on that plane, and then how much less is on LN003 which needs to be very good if they are going to deliver a new plane every 2-3 weeks.

adam said...

also, according to the webcast site, it was scheduled for 2 hours, yet it only lasted an hour. They were also asking if there were any more questions, and they said there were none.

I don't think it was a time issue, it was more of who was asking it.

Anonymous said...

Who is Boeing trying to fool? They won't fly in November or December, and they won't have the 4 test aircraft (RR) ready by January. Just watch.

AJSwtlk said...

Be sure to vote at

Please leave a comment about what polls might be of interest the next few weeks.

Anonymous said...

This is a brand new aircraft with brand new technology that behaves in brand new ways.

"Boeing don't know what they don't know", so it would be an absolute miracle if Boeing get the 787 certified before mid 2008.

Anonymous said...

Archived audio is available at the following link

About 1 hour long.

Anonymous said...

The 787 program is like jumping off a cliff and building your wings on the way down.(apologies to Ray Bradbury)

Anonymous said...

We are watching a train-wreck unfold.

Anonymous said...

The Strange Tale Of The Temporary Fasteners:

" soon as the rollout party is over, it's back to work on that first plane, which for now is hidden away in Boeing's paint hangar at the Everett plant. Many systems have not yet been installed, and about 1,000 temporary fasteners must be replaced before first flight can take place in late August or September, Bair said.

That's down from tens of thousands of temporary fasteners that had been used on the first large composite 787 structures when they arrived in Everett a couple of months ago..." Seattle P-I, July 6, 2007

"...Bair said Boeing has made good progress on the fastener problem and only about 700 temporary fasteners remain to be replaced on the first plane..." Seattle P-I, September 5, 2007

Therefore, according to Mr. Bair, the net progress in replacing temporary fasteners during the nearly two-months since the "roll-out" of the "Potemkin Dreamliner" on 7/8/7 has only been approximately 300 fasteners?

Does anyone else find it somewhat strange that the process of replacing the "temporary fasteners" in LN001 was proceeding at a seemingly exponential rate prior to the "roll-out event" on 7/8/7, and since then has slowed to a virtual snail's pace? IMO, "good progress" seems like an odd characterization/evaluation of what's transpired regarding this matter to date, given the facts as presented by Boeing via the news media over the last four-months.


Anonymous said...

Whatever, Bair.

Flight testing an airplane isn't the same as running an airline (you don't just vacuum up the crumbs and greet new passengers). Flight and ground test results need to analyzed and compared to predictions as well as evaluation of airplane maintainence plans and procedures (how do I fix this?).

Funny how everything continues to slide except the first delivery date - another example of wishful thinking.

Ureshs said...

Well they have 258 firm 787 orders this year which is the best year for the 787 sales wise. With all this talk of delays etc. one must remember that the 787 is a 20 year program not a 4, 5, 6, or 7 year program. While there may be delays in the short term, long term this program will be fine and will be a huge revenue generator of Boeing and its partners.

In the end the 787 will revolutionize (in a positive way) air travel and is a game changer.

Anonymous said...

In the end the 787 will revolutionize (in a positive way) air travel and is a game changer.

Give me a break. It is no more than another plane, just made of plastic. It won't change anything in normal air travel.

wagga said...

Drop test a success

Anonymous said...

See table at
WingedMigrator, posted Sep 5, 2007 22:58:42
for comparison of times for
777, 370, and 787.

pkg said...

Agree with Ureshs. Look at the long term, this slip is just a minor issue. Once Boeing irons out the kinks, this plane will revolutionize manufacturing and management of the supply chain. It is an orchestration on a grand scale. And engineering-wise, an airplane "made of plastic" is a VERY big deal and very much a game-changer.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps plastics is a step forward, maybe even backward. Let's get a nanotech plane.

Anonymous said...

Who will be the purchaser of the 787-th Dreamliner?

The 787 program appears to be doing very very well. They would not be selling them like hotcakes if it were not.

Mike Blair comes across as like a goofy kid running the program but I suspect he's a lot sharper and in control than you realize. Scott Carson is a more crafty grizzled type with a big smile on his face. They are totally in control of this project it would seem.

They'll have a big winner on their hands. Can't wait to see how the 747 morphs into an all composite aircraft to blow out the A380. I didn't hear anything in the audio that would indicate anything serious in the 787 program. No doubt they could have some more issues, but even if the first delivery didn't get made until late in 2008, its no big deal in the long term scheme of things. I'd be careful of looking for a way to short Boeing.

Anonymous said...

Who is trying to short them? Does the world's mind revolve around the market (don't answer - just remember, our current infatuation is just that; we'll have better models in the future).

So, Boeing. "Don't try to short it." What is Boeing? You have to realize that the definition changes with time.

Have they (or, perhaps, it) made mistakes in the past? Many. Gosh, if only lessons learned could carry through generations.

But, it seems as if each generation needs to take its own knocks.

Composites (plastics, as some might say) have not been used to the scope that the 787 is going to. So, we know enough about all this to be comfy and not worry?

You can't claim that there's a lot of collective experience here; even Boeing touts that this isn't "your father's" plane.

Some of those types of sound effects make me think that we could be out on a limb here.

Mike and Scott happen to be faces behind which is a whole lot of stuff. They, by definition, have to do their role playing.

What does the down-and-dirty engineer think?

Companies are leveraging off of IS progress: encapsulation, public versus private access, ... That's pretty good.

But, there have been too many public statements that later turned out to be not quite what we thought they were saying(clever, if you ask me) for us to just take these announcements without a whole bunch of salt.

Anonymous said...

Boeing is (was) a premier engineering company. It looks like it wants to be a premier management company. These two are like oil and water, sometimes.

We have plenty of companies chasing money. Those types seem to have the day at the moment (hence, the market as the be-all of humankind).

But, can you eat it? Or, in this case, fly it?

Can a company expect to farm out so much of its work and not lose the heart of the matter? So, the plastic plane is Boeing's in name only?

Anonymous said...

If composites are so superior, then cars would all be composite.

But they aren't for many good reasons.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm sure convinced. Boeing is obviously well on the way to produce yet another dud in its long string of aircraft failures.

Anonymous said...

They'll have a big winner on their hands. Can't wait to see how the 747 morphs into an all composite aircraft to blow out the A380

Boeing has enjoyed the fact the once the 747-100 was certified, all of its subsequent derivatives took much less time to certify. This is why 747-8I will take much less time to certify than A380.

If 747 ever became plastic, the rules would change and the whole airplane would have to certified from scratch, something I seriously doubt Boeing would choose to do because its pinned its future on point-to-point twins over hub-to-hub quads.

Having said that, if Boeing did see a need for a huge airplane it would probably be built a brand new one from scratch.

Robin Capper said...

This post from an engineering site might be of interest. Quite a lot of detail on why they have a fastener shortage.

Anonymous said...

Boeing outsourced almost the entire plane and they will have to spend years getting each component and system to work safely and reliably. Even a nontechnical issue, fasteners, has derailed the program by 4 months minimum. The string of problems, I mean discoveries, is just starting. Wiring, software, and various systems will be a nightmare. Keep in mind too that the FAA is in no hurry to certify any airplane, and especially one that is so unconventionally designed and produced. Even simple jets, such as recent PLJ/VLJs spend years in certification testing to satisfy the FAA. The 787 will likely follow suit.

Anonymous said...

The big question is if the first airplane is missing fastners, what about the others?

In the rush to push body sections to Everett were the partners directed to install temps in the static and fatigue airframes?

Anonymous said...

The big question is if the first airplane is missing fastners, what about the others?

In the rush to push body sections to Everett were the partners directed to install temps in the static and fatigue airframes?

Let's just say the Lowes and Home Depot stores in Charleston, SC are completely out of 6-inch 1/2-20 Hex bolts and washers.

Anonymous said...

As they are using the term "stick-built" which is how they have referred to homes built from sticks i.e. 2x4s etc., "stick-built" planes will be a thing of the past. Get used to it. Makes a lot of sense.

Building with composites or other will be here to stay. Modular construction makes all the sense in the world. Imagine building an aircraft carrier piece by piece. Or imagine moving cargo without containers on ships. The automobile industry has a fortune invested in building cars the way they do and they change their shapes at the drop of a hat just to market them. It’s a different economical issue.

Airplanes are not built in the quantities that cars are. Cars are not subjected to the kind of critical life-threatening stresses aircraft are.

Anyway this blog seems full of disgruntled people who don't like change and are just looking for something to criticize. Focus on the president if you want something to criticize. How did such an idiot become commander in chief? Sorry that’s another issue.

Boeing is on the right track with modular using composite-material construction, and for that matter much of the A380 is composite too. And have not parts of the 777 been made of composites for years, i.e. the entire vertical stabilizer (tail)?

And when the 747 "morphs" into a mostly composite and modular build aircraft it obviously would be an all new plane and design not just a modified 747. Does everything have to be spelled out in detail for you gentlemen and ladies? I am a post 70-year-old structural engineer and applaud Boeing, and also have no connection directly or indirectly to aircraft production.

Looking very much forward to seeing the 787 fly. It’s sure to have many bugs to be worked out but this is great stuff. I’m just wondering how many 747’s of the type and age that had the fuel tank explosion (i.e. TW800) are still flying. What’s to stop another one of those popping the same way? Now there is a valid concern.

64Plus said...

Interesting comments from the 70-year old view. The disgruntlement is related to perceived (and I'm not sure it's wrong) arrogance. Give me time, and I'll explain what that might mean or how the interpretation might have come about.

The 787 will go forward. We don't know the amount of time it'll take. Any bets on that? Or, the extent of changes required?

Thank you for bringing up the 747 tank fire. Many knew about the risk before; now, was that set so small that they were easily suppressed by managers? An Air Force guy told me the problem right after the accident, long before the investigation.

Remember how difficult it was for everyone to even consider the fuel tank. Many thought that they saw a missile.

Think the shuttle too. One of the comments related to this thread pointed to mind-set problems found in review of that accident.

Back to the 787, the program does not know what they don't know, as they say. Our main concern is that they don't cut corners in order to one-up Airbus on some stage that has a silly foundation.

Anonymous said...

your initial post did not mention anything about the flight control software contrary to post you were not the first to report the entire problem with the 787 delay

Anonymous said...

Well, it doesn't matter that jon was mainly kept abreast of matters on the floor. After all, the software isn't of any use if the plane, itself, is not ready.

So, remember that all along the FF date has unattainable, yet there was no adjustment (say, like on 7/8/07 being honest about when it might be).

Software types are unbelievably optimistic sometimes; in terms of earned value, software is hard; almost done is a mantra, almost.

About the software, it's very unnerving to hear Mike say that they only have a few more tweaks to the software. That is not a sign of configured software, rather it sounds like a bunch of hacks (not disparaging hacks as much software needs to be done in a very agile framework - our dilemma is how to engineer under this type of framework).

Anonymous said...

To give the software guys some credit, they get stuck with making all the last minute changes. Hardware can't be changed so easily, so the hardware guys are automatically off the hook. As the Gantt chart builds like a tsunami towards first flight, becoming ever more vertical, the integration effort rises to a roaring froth with hardware and software violently clashing together. Engineers struggle to make it all play nicely, and the path of least resistance is usually to change the software. The predictable result, as the Gantt chart wave finally breaks against the shoals of the deadline, is that software gets blamed for being 'late'. All my sympathies to the software folks at Boeing and Honeywell.