787: Where we stand

This morning Boeing outlined our revised schedule for the 787 Dreamliner. Given the progress over the summer addressing the “side-of-body” issue, we now expect a 787 first flight by the end of this year, with first deliveries starting in the 4th quarter of 2010.

We also announced today that we expect to achieve a Dreamliner production rate of 10 airplanes a month in late 2013.

The way you might characterize the new schedule and plan is, we’re cautiously confident - particularly because we’ve added some time to the flight-test program. But we’re fully aware - from what we’ve been through so far - that potential issues can and do crop up.


What I can say is that our team has made substantial progress addressing the side-of-body reinforcement issue.

While the solution is straightforward, implementing it on existing airplanes will be paced by the limited access in the side-of-body area. For instance, the space in the center wing box where the modification must be installed limits the number of people who can work there. But fortunately, we won’t face that problem farther down the road in production. In the future, the modification will be installed before airplanes reach final assembly.

Installing the modification is one of the things that must take place before we fly. We’ll also conduct static and fatigue testing to validate the durability of the modification, or solution.

Clearly there’s a lot to do. But as I mentioned, we’re making good progress and our team is eager to continue moving forward.

One additional note related to this announcement. We also said today that we’ve concluded that the initial flight test 787s have no commercial market value after development. As we said in our news release, that’s because of the inordinate amount of rework and modifications those airplanes have had. As a result, Boeing will take a $2.5 billion non-cash charge against third-quarter results to reclassify costs previously recorded for those airplanes.

So, to pose the same question I asked in the last post, where do we stand with the Dreamliner? As our CEO, Jim McNerney, said this morning, we continue to believe that the 787 will be a game changer for our customers.

Our challenge remains what it has been since day one: execute the program and get the Dreamliner to our customers, and the flying public, as soon as we can.

Comments (19)

Russell (everett):

Ho hum, I'll believe it when I see it. Fly that is...

Rob (chicago):

Thanks, some good news emerging. I remain excited about the 787, and keen to take a flight on her, soon. A question for you Randy, if you had to take a bet: Which aircraft will have first flight first - the 787 or the 748 freighter?



That's a very good question. It's going to be an exciting time around here between now and the end of the year!

-- Randy

Kevin (Los Angeles, CA):

I believe the test 787's are flyable at this point within a reduced (i.e. no maximum load) flight envelope.

Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA):

Afore ye go..

In the eyes of the critic, the ice is quite thin now so tread carefully.

I think that though it has been quite a difficult road to this point, it has certainly been exciting watching Boeing bring out a totally new airliner with renewed focus on better, faster, higher, further - renewed promise. Some of us are watching this for the first time.

Kinbin (Taipei Taiwan):

One thing that remains evident throughout the development is this, "baking cakes" just ain't the same as building from "lego blocks".

For those who bake, the fine tuning the finished product (cake with all the desired toppings) for serving is significantly more challenging than submitting a lego block cake structure.

On Rob's note, I place my bets on the 748.

In the meantime, just get the 787 prepped the V1 roll.

Phil (wichita, ks):

Once the testing is done on the first 3 a/c I would like to see Boeing donate them to museums. I would think these revolutionary aircrafts would be a welcome addition to the Smithsonian, Museum of Flight and the Kansas Aviation Museum. Much better to get them new then to wait for tired old aircraft that have to be restored at a large cost for the general public to admire.

Jun Leido (Manila, Philippines):

You have to break new ground, to cover new territory. The move to use newer materials and technologies may be daunting today, but will be useful and beneficial tomorrow.

Boeing needs to be the cutting-edge of innovation, as this brings out more competent competition, which brings out better airplanes and services for everyone. While it will not be easy, we have to stay the course and get it done.

My congratulations to everyone at the 787 program.

Mike (Kent, WA):

I'd sure like to see the Lessons Learned for this program.

Kevin (Salt Lake City):

So what will happen with the first 3 flyable 787's?

Will they end up in museums, attend airshows for years loaded with awesome interiors, destruct one and see how it holds up/reacts/performs?

What other possibilities abound?

Has this ever happened with another airplane program?

Tim (Auburn):

Randy, what is being done to ensure problems like the side to body join issue are identified sooner in future programs?

Can you address if this latest problem was the result of a flawed process, or just hubris?

Whichever it is, what concrete steps are being taken to ensure it doesn't happen again?

Optimism in the face of mistakes is all well and good, but I have to wonder if our Engineering folks haven't lost some discipline?

Joe (St Louis):

$2.5 billion charge to reflect that we won't be able to sell/deliver three flight test airplanes? That's $830 million each, a far cry from the $150 nominal price. Care to comment on how/why the amount is what it is?

Chris C (South Africa):

"Cautiously optimistic" is certainly the operative phrase regarding the revised 787 production schedule. All the very best for the on-going efforts to get this super-efficient, market-preferred game-changing airplane of the 21st Century -- the 787 -- into the air this year!

As I've said before in an earlier blog post on this fine journal on the 787 "issues":

"Building a commercial airplane is arguably the single most technological undertaking in the engineering world. The super-efficient 787 Dreamliner certainly pushes the envelope of commercial aerospace engineering, and the result is an airplane that will without a question go through painful teething problems, but ultimately be the most advanced and efficient commercial airplane, ever."

Norman (Long Beach, California, United States):

Designing, building and testing the first airliner of a new generation of airliners is not easy and it is expected that delays will come as new materials are made and tested. I think this is a learning experience for everyone.

I hope at least one of the test bed 787's that cannot go into commercial service goes to the National Air and Space Museum at the Udvar Hazy center in Washington DC, it would make a great addition.

rodney mcdowell (vancouver washington):

Maybe they should think twice about farming out all of our work - so much for USA pride...

J. Martinez (Honolulu, HI):

Hope it works out with all the money and resources we are spending. If it does it will only be copied within years by our competitor then we will have to come up with something new. If we don't do anything we will remain as uninnovative as the Big Three was until they were forced to change that mindset.

john m (duluth, mn, usa):

Another possible use for the first three planes might be for training new crews--less downtime for the airlines' more expensive revenue producing planes if individual airline design differences doesn't preclude this.

Joe Presson (St Louis):

this is not a response to a prior article, it is intended as a suggestion for the future.


I don't know if Boeing helicopter engineering side has a better name for the effect described, but the article is both beautiful and fascinating. You could probably get several columns from some of the information.

Pedro (Vancouver, BC):

I'm cautiously optimistic along with everyone else and eagerly looking forward to the first flight. Will there be any forewarning before the first flight takes place?

Jim Brooks (St Louis):

With all this talk about the second final assembly line going in at either Everett or Charleston, was St Louis ever considered?

There is an airport just 12 miles east of St Louis in Illinois with two 10,000 foot runways and nothing but cornfields on the east side of the airport to build on.

It sounds like an excellent place to have a facility. There is also a large experienced aerospace work force in the St Louis area.

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