Despite numerous promises and confirmations that all was well and that things were going smoothly, it looks like the Boeing 787 Dreamliner will be delayed once again until early 2011. Japan’s All Nippon Airways was the first airline due to take delivery of the aircraft at the end of this year.
Boeing said on Friday the setback was due to the availability of a Rolls-Royce engine needed for the final phases of flight testing …as well as issues with the horizontal stabilizer and other instrumentation delays.
“Given the success of the flight test programme so far, it is regrettable to hear of the delay,” said an All Nippon spokeswoman.
The US company said that it now expected All Nippon to take delivery of the aircraft in the middle of the first quarter of 2011 and all they can really do is wait. It’s not like Airbus has an all-new composite aircraft that they can just order instead.
The 787 project has already been delayed for more than two years, following a series of hitches and All Nippon has ordered 55 Dreamliners, eight of which Boeing had promised to deliver by the end of March.
A spokesman for Rolls-Royce said: “We have been informed by Boeing that the currently planned dates for Trent 1000 engine deliveries will now not support their latest flight test programme requirements.
“We are working closely with Boeing to expedite delivery in support of their programme schedule.”
Rolls-Royce confirms that the engine availability issue is unrelated to the failure of a Rolls Trent 1000 engine, which will power the 787, during testing earlier this month.
The company’s spokesman declined to give specific details of the incident. But the Bloomberg news agency reported at the time that a turbine blew up and the test facility was closed temporarily. It was unclear if the 787 delay would mean Boeing having to reschedule deliveries to other airlines.
In July, Australia’s Qantas brought forward its 787 delivery schedule, saying it would receive the first 50 of the aircraft it has on order in mid-2012. A spokesman said on Friday: “We are seeking more clarification from Boeing.”
Qantas, Air New Zealand, and Air India have said they will seek compensation running into million of dollars for previous 787 delays. However, analysts believe any compensation deals would be settled through aircraft discounts and maintenance agreements rather than cash payments.
The 787 made its maiden flight in December 2009 and was a star feature – albeit very briefly – at July’s international airshow at Farnborough in the UK.
The 787, being built in Seattle, is Boeing’s most sophisticated plane yet. The company claims the carbon-composite aircraft will be lighter, faster and emit less CO2 than similar-sized planes currently flying.
It’s important to remember that delays on such huge industrial programmes are not uncommon. Development of the Airbus A380 was also plagued by problems, plunging the manufacturer into heavy losses and forcing a clear-out of management.
Chronology of cock-ups
• July 2007: First 787 unveiled, with test flight planned for August and first deliveries May 2008
• Oct: Test flight delayed and deliveries pushed back
• Jan 2008: Test flight delayed again and deliveries now set for early 2009
• April: Lack of components means deliveries now set for late 2009
• Dec: Strikes force another revision of test flight and delivery schedule
• June 2009: Long-awaited maiden flight delayed
• Dec 2004: Airbus reveals project is £1bn over budget
• April 2005: The plane makes its maiden flight
• June: Delivery schedule pushed back six months
• July 2006: Production problems mean another six-eight months delay
• Oct: Huge problems with wiring mean delivery schedule delayed one year
• Jan 2007: Airbus warns of mounting losses because of higher A380 costs
• Oct: Singapore Airlines takes delivery of first A380
• 787 Dreamliner to briefly visit UK
• Emirates orders 30 new Boeing 777s
• Airbus secures big orders at Berlin ILA Air Show
• 10 top pimped passenger planes
• All Blacks feature in air safety video