Boeing’s 787 is now almost three years behind schedule, and any day now Boeing is expected to announce yet another delay of somewhere between 3 – 6 months to the program. Some analysts feel that even a 6 month extra delay may be too optimistic (as has every prior target been to date).
The FAA is now starting to have second thoughts about granting early ETOPS certification – this is the essential approval that allows the plane to fly more than 60 minutes away from an emergency airport. Without this, most of the routes on which the 787 is planned to operate will be impossible.
Supplier problems continue, and most of the ‘completed’ 787s, currently parked at Boeing’s plant in Everett, WA, need extensive re-work to have both new and old problems resolved.
The plane also seems to be gaining weight – a very important issue for airlines, because the heavier the plane is, empty, the less the plane can carry in the way of passengers and freight, and the greater the fuel consumption just to fly the empty plane. An increase in weight (and therefore in fuel consumption) can also mean a reduction in effective range, and this has at least one airline (Air New Zealand) openly expressing concerns and now describing its order as ‘a potential decision’ rather than a firm commitment.
The costs of the delays and problems are enormous. Boeing’s initial budget for developing the 787 was about $5 billion. The costs of delays have added somewhere between an extra $12 billion to possibly as much as an extra $17 billion to the initial $5 billion budget.
Meanwhile, Boeing has suffered 120 cancellations of 787 orders. Yes, it still has orders for a massive 846 planes on its books, but who knows how many other orders it has failed to win over the last year or two as the 787’s image has soured. Every Airbus A350 order, and just about every Airbus A330 order is a lost opportunity to Boeing, and so far this year, Airbus has picked up a net of 74 more orders for its A330 and 53 more orders for its A350. In comparison, Boeing has had a net loss of 5 orders for the 787 so far this year (36 new orders, mainly from United, which split an order in half for 25 A350s and 25 787s, and 41 cancellations).
For more information about these and other 787 problems, please see the appalling litany of problems in this very well written Seattle Times article.
My only quibble with the Seattle Times article is it uses the now way-too-overworked phrase ‘Boeing has bet its future (on the 787)’. This phrase was first used in the context of the 707, then trotted out again for the 747. It may have been true in those two previous cases, but clearly it is not true in this case, because if the 787 were to be considered a bet, by any and all standards, Boeing has surely lost it.