A change of flight plan

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND - Clearly, as our company’s top executives expressed this week, the 787 schedule change is disappointing for all of us at Boeing. The 787 rightly has generated so much excitement inside and outside Boeing that even a temporary setback like this doesn’t feel so good

But it is especially disappointing because we let down our customers. We’re determined to work with our program partners to meet the new flight plan for the Dreamliner.

We’ve said it again and again here. Building new airplanes is tough and challenging, especially with an innovative, game-changing airplane such as the 787. Still, this six-month delivery delay from our original target of May 2008 stings a bit. Our team is working extremely hard to minimize the disruptions and impacts the delays will have, and to get the airplane to our customers.

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The first 787 is now due to fly by the end of the 1st quarter of 2008.

The schedule change calls for deliveries to begin next year in late November or December. And we’re anticipating first flight around the end of the first quarter of 2008.

But what hasn’t changed is our confidence in the Dreamliner’s breakthrough innovations and new technologies. And with 710 orders and 50 customers, we know the market’s validation of the 787 is rock solid.

The issues that led to this week’s announcement are essentially the same ongoing challenges we talked about last month, including out-of-sequence production work on the structure of the first airplane and shortages of parts. What we discovered is that the work has gone more slowly than we had anticipated. And it became clear that we’d used up the margin to accommodate any unexpected issues.

So the new schedule for first flight and first delivery takes these challenges into effect. And it builds back in a margin for dealing with issues that may come up during ground tests and the flight test program. It is absolutely the right step to take to get our production system prepared for delivering this exceptional airplane.

On a related note, as you know, I was traveling this week through Australia, and currently I’m in New Zealand. During a media briefing in Sydney on Monday morning (Sunday afternoon, Seattle time) I reiterated our target of a May 2008 delivery for the Dreamliner. Some have asked why I would say that given this week’s announcement. Well, keep in mind that the media briefing took place before the decision on the schedule change was made back in Seattle.

We’re totally committed to providing accurate and timely information. And that’s always the plan. On Monday, Australia time, I presented our schedule and plans as they were known at the time. When they changed, we shared the new plan promptly. It’s rare, but sometimes it happens that way. It comes with the territory, I guess, when you’re out on the road, miles and time zones away, on the front line of communications for a dynamic company like Boeing.

By the way, this week we did learn that the more difficult structural work on Airplane #1 is behind us. The airplane is back on its gear and work is proceeding with remaining structural and systems installations. Software coding and integration is also progressing, and the new schedule will give us more time to mature the systems. We think that will lead to fewer problems in flight test.

So, despite the schedule delays, there is progress. And as always, we’ll keep you updated as we move along.

Comments (14)

G (France):

I hope it won't affect 747-8i's development schedule.

Chris C (South Africa):

Of course this six-month delay to EIS is a disappointment, and perhaps somewhat of an embarrassment, but looking at the whole programme, the delay seems to be minimal. As said many times before, the 787 is a revolutionary airplane, with all-new, revolutionary production methods, so naturally the learning curve will be a strong challenge, but nothing that Boeing will not be able to overcome.

Indeed, Boeing now will need to stay within the margins of the latest revised testing and EIS schedule. I firmly believe that during testing, more efficiency gains, say 5% in further fuel reductions, will be achieved. The 787 is the right airplane for today’s and tomorrow’s market requirements, as well as the finest airplane in the world, and will no doubt sell well over 2,000 frames over its life-span.

Uresh (Syosset, NY, USA):

I think if you gave regular detailed updates on the 787 program like you did in your most recent blog entry (regarding airplne 1 and the progress it's making) then you would be aiding in the transperancy of the program, putting the customers and shareholders at ease and proving to the doubting thomas out there (you just need to read the forums on a.net to see how many are out there) that the 787 is back on track. Above all...be honest about the situation even if it makes Boeing look bad in the short term...in the long run you would look good.

G (France):

To Chris C in South Africa.

2,000 frames. Are you kidding?
787 will sell over 3,000 frames over its life-span. It has not flown yet and it's got 710 firm orders.

G (France):

The following excerpts are taken from an article in www.enviro.aero

The Airbus A380 and Boeing B787 will have the lowest fuel consumption of any commercial jet-airliners ever built, requiring less than 3 litres per 100 passenger/km (or 67 passenger-miles per US gallon). This makes these new-generation aircraft even more fuel-efficient than the most recent hybrid cars.

Airplanes are making great progress in efficiency. All of us hope that airplane replacement will be done in a faster pace.

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

I think a lot of people have a overly negative view on bad news and potential sales prospects thereafter. Take Cathay Pacific for example. If you've ever read their inflight magazine (history), you'll know that they where very happy with their RB211 and major derivatives (Trent) that Rolls Royce built. Then take their purchase of the B777-300ER - an aircraft powered exclusive by the GE90-115B - that's an over 30-year exclusive commitment to RR erased. Not to say that RR is a weak supplier/partner, it surely must be that Cathay Pacific couldn't help noticing the gap between what Boeing promised for the 773ER and the end result. With an increase in range in excess of 10%, the 773ER demonstrated perfectly Boeing's ability to do derivatives. Anyone who questioned that part of the company's strategy need only compare order books.

Similarly, the 747-8 and its General Electric-only engine solution should be viewed in the same light. The current MTOW and thrust proposals for the 748 indicates quite a high thrust to weight ratio - well beyond the -400. Why would that be? I'm expecting a higher MTOW and more range.

And then, finally, onto the 787. I suppose that those Boeing and partner people working on the Dreamliner are also human. They will have too look back to the Incredibles of 1966-69.

Kevin Kitura (Calgary, Alberta, Canada):

At times like these I am reminded by an old adage called Parkinson's Law — Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.

Not to jinx you or the 787 team who are doing some amazing work. But adages only exist because their is an ounce of truth to them.

This is also the reason why most Aeronautical Engineers are shiny on top.

Ed (Dublin, Ireland):

To G: Yes, I think the 787 will sell between 3000 and 4000 frames over 30 years.

To Randy: One thing that I recall from the Airbus A380 delays [not that I want to draw a parallel] were that they did not really snowball until the aircraft had actually flown. I hope that the 787 does not have any major problems with its testing phase, particularly considering some of the unique requirements layed down by the FAA due to the pioneering use of composites in some applications on the Dreamliner. All in all, I believe that although the delay is dissapointing for everyone concerned, it will ultimatly be worth the wait!

Kinbin (Taipei):

Randy needs to regularly put off his spiffy management "hat" and put on the no-nonsense techie "hat".

Purely on a tech perspective, it ain't gonna be easy in the first place to put an estimated completion time frame, and downright impossible on a firm date on prototypes and turnkeys. It will be ready when it is ready. There are simply too many unknowns to juggle. Manage to a deadline and if it is gonna start missin', execute workarounds and update immediately. As long as one is pulling out all stops, it's fine.

Management though wants corporate cosmetics and "haute couture" so that the company simply shines during its regular "strut" on the catwalk for investors. If the 787 wasn't given the BOTOX for the sexy roll-out on 08JULY 2007, would we have gotten to see first flight earlier?

Ha, that's another fairy tale since we can't undo the massive PR event. Maybe Randy can spin us the tale then.

Skyler Bailey (Dania Beach, Florida):

It is a huge let down that Boeing has now joined Airbus in it's failure to deliver a product on time after so much hype. Really a dissapointment to a lot of Boeing fans.

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

To Skyler Bailey -- This is only a six month delay not a six year delay, this is not the end of the world for crying out loud!

I would not mind waiting a small while if I knew that the plane that I'm flying on has all it's components and is tested to and beyond it's capabilities, and the employees are happy. 787's and pizza's are not the same, no pun intended for pizza makers.

It is unfortunate that a delay on the 787 has incured
but developing a plane especially a plane that is a proof of concept is hard but in the mean time I don't
think the plane will lose orders.

Nick (Orcas, WA):

I'm a big fan of Boeing, but this delay suggests a major failure of management and its project tracking system. At late as July, Boeing was saying the plane would fly by September, and a week before this delay was announced, Mike Bair was saying in Aviation Week that there wasn't even a low probability the plane wouldn't fly by the end of the year.

Any decent project tracking process should have been able to estimate parts availability and assembly time with reasonable accuracy months in advance. The fact that Boeing was so far off on its estimates at this late date shows the need for major upgrades to the process. Given Boeing's long history in this business, it's really surprising they let this get away from them.

Neil (Everett, WA _ USA):

I heard the rumor on the streets that the 787 delay is to give you more time to achive 4 digits sale number before 1st flight. It must be the whisper of the winds....

JMS (Central USA):

The only disappointment is that the adjustment was not done earlier, like a year or so ago. And, saying that it 'stings' really stinks. That is the wrong attitude; wise program management would expect these types of adjustments. A plane has to have much greater reliability than most products, even architecture is not a good comparison.

Somehow a great engineering company let itself get drawn into hyp-ism. Where and when did this occur?

Granted that there are more dynamics today than with other programs: internet, more educated public, more flyers, etc. So, we see both misinformation (a natural effect) and disinformation (unfortunately - was some of this Boeing's doing?).

And, no doubt, Boeing will learn from this experience for the next go-around.

Yet, at this time, there ought to be more of an emphasis, methinks, on the flying (it's being handled very cavalierly, it seems) and testing needed for the new technology (too much reliance on analytics, for instance?).

Do work the supply-chain issues (learn how to not do it too, hopefully), but can't you slow it down a little? So, it costs; that will be one of the lessons learned, perhaps.

Actually, this farming out is a Wal-Mart model in a sense; can it really be applied correctly to something like a plane (which needs devoted attention)? We hope that you are truthful about what you find out in that regard. Will you need to have permanent employees as overseers at the suppliers? So many other questions.

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