Final thoughts on 787 first delivery

There is a sense of relief that Boeing finally delivered the first 787 this week, after a 3 1/2 year delay and the most painful gestation period in Boeing Commercial Airplane history.

In addition to the actual rain storm on Monday that could not dampen the spirits of the moment, there were many others who nonetheless tried to rain on Boeing’s parade. They pointed out, correctly, that challenges remain for the ramp up in production and Boeing spent billions of dollars on the troubled program.

These and other points are legitimate issues. We chose to let Boeing have its moment in the sun (figuratively speaking, anyway, considering the lousy weather Monday).

Here are our thoughts:

FedEx gets ‘best and final offers’ from Airbus, Boeing

FedEx is considering ordering the Airbus A330-200F or Boeing 767-300F. We learned at ISTAT that some at the company think the A330-200F is too much airplane in terms of range for US domestic service and would prefer the short-range A330-300F capable of carrying more volume. Although some months ago Jon Ostrower broke the story that FDX was talking with Boeing about the 767-400, we learned at ISTAT Boeing said “no.” It is focused on the KC-46A, 767-derived tanker and doesn’t want to take on a program that would divert resources from this effort.

Separately, we learned that Airbus and Boeing submitted their best and final offers last week and a decision–which might include a decision to do nothing–could come as early as this week. Concerns over the economy are spooking FDX, we are told, and there is a faction that favors acquiring more Boeing 757s for conversion and doubling up on frequency if capacity is needed while maintaining the flexibility to cut capacity in a downturn at a lower capital acquisition cost.

If Airbus were to win this order for the A330F, then the prospect of Airbus proceeding with the Mobile (AL) plant is back on the table, we are told.


787 first delivery, Day 2

Here’s more on Boeing’s first delivery of the 787 to launch customer All Nippon Airways.

The first picture illustrates the fancy, new windows in the 787. The manual shade is eliminated in the 787 and the window is dimmed by the passenger or the flight attendant. This photo, taken aboard an ANA 787 Sunday on the sunny ramp at Paine Field, is a dramatic representation of this feature. Photo by yours truly.

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Soundbites from 787 delivery

From Scott Fancher, head of the 787 program:

* We’ve developed a set of technologies that will be the backbone of development for the next 30 years.

* This is as big a leap forward as the 707 was.

* 787-9 design is very stable over last couple of years. The weight is down. We will start producing tools next year. We will start producing components next year. (Not structural components.)

* Charleston has been designed to be funbdamentally identical to Everett.

* When we have the data, we will put Charleston and Everett under one quality control system.

* Despite huge costs, we like the investment we made in the 787.

Boeing delivers first 787 to ANA

In a packed room of international media, Boeing announced Sunday that All Nippon Airways executed the contract to accept first delivery of the 787, three and one half years late.

Boeing has a day-long schedule for the media to get briefed on the program and the handover. Ceremonies continue tomorrow and the plane leaves Tuesday for Tokyo.

ANA will take four airplanes this year and 16 next year. By the end of ANA’s fiscal 2017 in March 2013an 2017 (oops-big thumbs on a small Blackberry keyboard) it will receive all 55 on order.

ANA’s airplanes are powered by the Rolls Royce Trent 1000, designed exclusively for the 787.

This is a milestone for Boeing but challenges remain.

The Seattle Times has this report, estimating that Boeing has spent $32bn so far on the 787 program vs a planned $5.8bn.

Challenges Remain

Production ramp up will be a challenge and so will delivery rework. We’ll have further reports over the next two days.

Boeing did Charleston to thwart union: news report, citing Boeing documents

In the first documentation to be revealed, Bloomberg News reports that Boeing did in fact establish the second 787 assembly line in Charleston (SC) to thwart the union–and, from Puget Sound’s perspective, locate the next new airplane in Charleston.

Assuming the Bloomberg reporting is correct in its interpretation–and there is no reason to assume otherwise–this completely belies the Boeing legal response to the NLRB that locating the assembly line in Charleston was all about economic incentives from local authorities.

The IAM 751 blog on the topic is here, bearing in mind that theirs is hardly an objective view.

Cargolux, Part 3: alternative lift to the ‘rejected’ 747s

On the final night at ISTAT in Barcelona, a new scenario has been suggested in the continuing saga of the Cargolux situation.

Cargolux previously  said may seek freighter capacity elsewhere if an agreement with Boeing isn’t reached on compensation.

Where, you might ask, is there immediate lift available?

The answer, it was suggested, are 777-200Fs, owned and operated by….drum roll, please….Qatar Airways.

It’s all speculation but interesting to ponder.

Aviation Week has this story that contains more detail about the fuel burn issue and Qatar’s involvement.

More on Cargolux: weights and fuel burn

Note: Jon Ostrower at Flight Global has this update.

The underlying cause for the Cargolux rejection (the airline’s word) of the delivery of the first two Boeing 747-8Fs is performance.

Performance is based, generally, on two things: weight of the airplane and specific fuel consumption (SFC). If the airplane is too heavy, it may not meet the payload and/or range guarantees. If SFC is below specifications, range/payload may be affected. If you combine the two issues, a larger problem exists.

It’s been well known for more than a year that the 747-8 was “heavy” and the GEnx engines burned too much fuel. Despite the two year delay, GE hasn’t developed a performance improvement package (PIP) for the 747-8 that will be ready before the end of 2013, according to sources familiar with the situation. GE’s priority has been the 787 program.

We asked Boeing about the weight and SFC issues. Here is its response:

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What’s behind the Cargolux rejection of the 747-8F delivery

Here’s an expanded version of a story we did for Commercial Aviation Online/Air Transport Intelligence:

The embarrassing last minute refusal by Cargolux air cargo to accept delivery of the first Boeing 747-8F that was planned in elaborate ceremonies 19 September is due to more than it appears on the surface, say several sources at the ISTAT European conference that got underway Sunday night (18 September) in Barcelona.

No source would be identified due to the sensitive nature of the situation and the underlying issues triggering the refusal—an overweight airplane and one that doesn’t meet promised fuel burn specifications—are real and potentially affecting future customer deliveries. But sources are universal in concluding that a new element in the Cargolux situation emerged last week to trigger the refusal.

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Cargolux, Boeing and a third party: there’s more than meets the eye

We’re in Barcelona, Spain, for the ISTAT conference, and one of the hot topics at the Sunday night reception is the refusal by Cargolux to take delivery of the first and second 747-8Fs gthat were scheduled for Monday and Wednesday this week.

The companies cited only “contractual issues” that have to be worked out.

We have obtained enough information at the opening night reception to have confidence there is much more at work here than meets the eye. One reader hypothesized that Qatar Airways, which now owns 35% of Cargolux, has a role.

Our information here is that this is indeed the case.

We expect to have a posting on this Monday.

But we are confident there isn’t some new, previously undisclosed issue about the 747-8F’s performance shortfalls that have been well known to Boeing and customers for well over a year.