Boeing revises 787 schedule again

As expected, Boeing revised its 787 schedule, now listing the first flight in the second quarter next year and first delivery into the first quarter of 2010. These represent slips of about six months.

The Boeing press release may be found here.

The timetable infers a nine month flight test program. Most observers believe this is aggressive. Aerospace analysts are nearly unanimous that a full year is more likely.

Boeing’s statement is vague about when in the second quarter it now expects first flight. Based on information we have, we think the end of the second quarter is the most likely scenario, but the first flight could also slip to the third quarter. This is also based on information we have.

Boeing wants to get the program moving, but insiders tell us that there remain risks and uncertainties that continue to cast doubts on any schedule announced.

Update, 10:15 AM PDT: Addison Schonland, Jon Ostrower and Scott Hamilton have a 20 minute podcast discussing the 787 delay and new management changes announced by Boeing shortly after the 787 delay was announced.

Update, December 12:

Reaction is mixed about the delay and the management changes.

First, on the delays: These had been widely expected, both as a result of the strike by the IAM, the discovery of fasteners incorrectly installed and of reports (including our own) that software integration continues to be an issue.

Aerospace analyst Howard Rubel of Jefferies Co. calls the newly announced schedule “realistic” and has a buy on the stock. Robert Stallard of Macquarie Capital (with an Outperform) is less kind. He writes in a note issued afterward:

Given its 100% failure rate in forecasting the 787 timetable so far, we expect airlines, suppliers and investors to be suitably skeptical on to whether this latest revised schedule will actually be achieved.

Goldman Sachs (Sell) believes Boeing will run over both new time estimates. Goldman projects a 3Q09 first flight instead of Boeing’s projected 2Q09; and a 3Q10 delivery instead of Boeing’s projected 1Q10, the major difference being a one year flight test program instead of a nine-month schedule put forth by Boeing.

The market reacted benignly to the announcements Thursday, with the stock trading down less than 2%. But today is a different story. While the market is off (at 9AM PST) less than 1%, Boeing is off 4.75%.

On the management changes:

Surprisingly, some inside and close to Boeing don’t know whether Pat Shanahan’s appointment to oversee all new airplane programs is a promotion or a kick upstairs because of the continuing problems with the 787 program, which he was brought in from Boeing’s Integrated Defense Systems unit to oversee and fix. Shanahan still oversees the program, as well as the troubled 747-8 development, but a new person, also from IDS, has been appointed to directly manage the 787 program. This person reports to Shanahan.

It’s telling of Boeing’s credibility problems that even some inside Boeing question just what the Shanahan moves means. The efforts to read between the lines is like reading The Kremlin at the height of the Cold War.

Analysts generally applaud the moves as an effort by Boeing to fix problems. One of Boeing’s industrial partners believes Shanahan has done a good job and that he is on track to do greater things at Boeing. The Wall Street Journal reporting suggests Shanahan is now one of two candidates to succeed Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Scott Carson, who is on countdown to mandatory retirement in about four years. The other contender, announced in the management restructuring, according to The Journal, is Ray Conner. Conner comes from a top position in sales but has a solid background in supply management and this is his new position position within BCA–something that has been a key stumbling area for the 787. Conner doesn’t report to Shanahan; he reports directly to Carson.

4 Comments on “Boeing revises 787 schedule again

  1. Boeing missed an opportunity to capture all or most of the risks, in my opinion. I don’t think 9 months will be enough for the flight test program, leading to a mature plane. Boeing is rushing again and this will lead to more embarrassing delays, IMHO.
    EIS: Q3 2010 at the earliest.

  2. TBC continues to be very optimistic re time to accomplish the load, fatigue, system and flight test tasks. How many post production tasks do they want to perform in San Antonio? How many post production holes do they want to drill n a material – CFRP – that does not like holes drilled in the first place?

    The first group of 747s required a several page list of Service Bulletins to be accomplished after delivery!

    Come Hell or High Water is not a good production plan.

    Pragmatic Jim

  3. Even worse if true is a blog on Seattle Post claiming the wing of the static test frame is de-laminating.
    Another production issue to address urgently as IMO this would only been have been subject to bending. Certainly no environmental exposure.

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