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).
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.