Boeing’s next 787 announcements

Update, Dec. 9: As a Commenter noted below, a French newspaper is reporting Boeing told Air France the first delivery of the 787 may be June or July. This falls within the 4-6 month delay we forecast on November 19. Several aerospace analysts since then have also forecast 4-6 months, with some a little shorter and some a little longer.

With 145 votes tallied to this Update in the First Delivery poll below, 17 (11.72%) predict first delivery will be in the second quarter; 28 (19.31%) say the third quarter, 46 (31.72%) say the fourth quarter and 44 (30.34%) say in 2012.

We think the test flights are most likely to resume in January. With 140 votes tallied to the Update, 12 votes (8.57%) say December, 57 (40.71%) say January and 68 (48.57%) say later in 2011.

And if there isn’t enough to consider, throw this into the hopper: Bloomberg reports the US will consider a patent infringement case filed by Pratt & Whitney against Rolls-Royce over, among other engines, the Trent 1000 powering the 787. PW asked that imports of the Trent 1000 be stopped until the infringement case is concluded, a process which could take 15 months.

We think blocking imports for the 787 won’t happen, but that’s what’s been asked.

With this new information, continue to vote–we’ll see if this sways opinion.

Original Post:

Stakeholders in the Boeing 787 program are naturally curious about the delay to the first delivery of the 787, the rescheduling of downstream deliveries to customers and resumption of flight tests.

But a cottage industry of speculation has arisen about when Boeing will make the announcements. Jon Ostrower of Flightblogger has written that Boeing seems to like to make delay announcements on or near holidays or big events when the news cycles are low or preoccupied with other matters. We’ve noticed the same thing–the most recent announcement was on Thanksgiving Eve, for example–and some Wall Street analysts we’ve talked to likewise expect the next announcement (or series of them) to be around the Christmas and/or New Year’s Holidays.

So in the spirit of having some fun, we’ve created some polls on the topics. What do readers think?

18 Comments on “Boeing’s next 787 announcements

  1. There was an infamous UK government spindoctor who declared 11 September 2001 as a “good day to bury bad news”. She released a bunch of unflattering public statistics as terrorists flew planes into the sides of building in Manhattan and elsewhere.

    Given that Boeing released their last update at 3pm PST on the day before Thanksgiving, I go for 3pm on the 24th December for the next release.

    I have noticed that we don’t know much more about what happened in Laredo than a month ago. I assume the power control software will need revising. But is this a localized problem with a simple fix and test, or an endemic problem requiring a complete rewrite and new certification? The difference could be a delay of upto a year in restarting flight test.

    • Bush signed off on quite a lot of contentious legislation in those “lightbending” moments. A popular strategy.

      IMHO the timely return to ordered testing is dependent on the electrical hardware being able to properly isolate a fault. My impression currently is that this is
      not acertained. Changing sequencing in software will not be sufficient.
      Nonetheless this is stick tapping in the dark. Information available on the A380 engine burst is more transparent and rich by a couple of magnitudes.

  2. A timely article- review in the WSJ sums up the current BA mis-management re schedules- and lets not forget that stonecipher was also a welch wannabe- and that Phil condit adored welch and the GE types – a few are on the Bored of Directionless

    Supervising Success
    Among the key ingredients of good management: constant evaluation and candor.
    By ALAN MURRAY

    A decade after Jack Welch stepped down as chief executive of General Electric, he still commands remarkable respect as a management guru. The company he once led has lost its magic, the business processes he developed to battle bureaucracy have become bureaucratic themselves, and many of the “graduates” of the Jack Welch school have since stumbled—think Bob Nardelli at Home Depot or Jim McNerney at Boeing. (Has anyone seen that Dreamliner yet?)

    Yet Mr. Welch and the management mythology surrounding him continue, untarnished. “The Talent Masters” is the latest celebration of the Welch way. It’s written by Bill Conaty, the recently retired senior vice president for human resources at GE, and Ram Charan, the business adviser and author who often collaborates on books with ex-CEOs.

    goes on . . .

  3. When you write safety-critical software you design the tests at the same time as the software itself. These tests determine what each software unit does in every condition you are planning for. So unless Boeing or its contractors simply didn’t run the tests, which is unlikely, then it’s a software design issue. What happened is murky but it looks like there was a fundamental failure in the backup systems. It could be a hardware component misreporting a condition, and the software is unaffected. There could be a particular unusual combination of circumstances that was planned for. In this case you either live with the limitation or upgrade the software.

    The problem comes when you aren’t able to isolate the set of conditions that caused the logic failure or where your tests previously and incorrectly indicated the software was compliant for the conditions. In this case, a rewrite may be the only way to establish compliance.

  4. It seems that top Boeing technical leadership is found wanting since the exit of the brilliant engineer and former top executive of Boeing, Alan Mullaly!

  5. As we are having a “light moment” (no pun intended) I thought an appropriate name for this event could be a “cascade of Murphy’s”
    Throw a few others into the mix please

    • Murphy was an optimist

      The probability of an unplanned event is inversely proportional to its desire ability.

      And for the financial gurus/power point rangers who make schedules and SWAGs as to cost, their modeling tools all seem to have the standard VC factor built in.

      VC= that well known Variable Constant or in laymens terms – a Fudge factor or FUBAR factor re military projects.

  6. Already “voted” but I thought I would explain my choices.

    Dec 25-31 for the announcment: If they really want to bury the bad news without being too cheeky about it (Dec 25), then I would say the week between Christmas and New Years. Serious people will not miss such an announcement, no matter when it is released, but alot of day traders might not pick up on it time to cut their losses.

    After Jan. 2011 for re-commencing flight test: If they knew they could be flying again by January or earlier, they would have said so by now.

    Last quarter of 2011 for first delivery: Being slightly optimistic about this one but I really believe Boeing will pull out all the stops to get that first delivery in 2011. But it will most likely be only one. Assuming it takes 3 months to get the first flight test aircraft to a state where it can fly again, it will take that much longer to get the rest and rework the existing fleet built to date.

    • Nearly the same here – and it seems we share the same reasoning. Except I didn’t share your “slight optimism” regarding delivery… with all the partly-reconfigured aircraft, in different stages of redesign or rebuilding, it wouldn’t surprise me if they have to call time-out to sort out the configuration mess before demonstrating once and for all that all ships comply to the same level for certification purposes. And that’s assuming the electrical redesign goes smoothly and no more big issues crop up.

      • Where would you leave room for the Year End Buying Spree Announcements 😉

        Week before Xmas for delays, week before Year End for last orders would be my guess.
        But the delay announced will be the one already in the chute before the fire.

      • Well… let’s look at the scores:

        Actual announcement: 18th of January
        Actual resumption: 23rd of December (but certification resumes mid-January)
        Newly projected EIS: 3rd quarter 2011 (we’ll see…)

        So they fooled us by announcing the new schedule *after* flights resumed. 🙂 Have to admit that the flights resumed a lot earlier than I expected which may bode well for EIS. Obviously, I still leave a big fat “we’ll see” next to the current official date for now…

    • AN, I also think your reasoning is good. As I mentioned above, I think resumption of flight testing could be seriously delayed as a consequence of a software rewrite and recertification.

      After the incident, the FAA were at pains to stress thet they were suspending flight testing and they would decide when it resumes. Maybe I am reading too much into this as the FAA formally makes these decisions in every case. At some point Boeing will make a submission to the FAA. My guess is that Boeing don’t know right now how the FAA will respond.

  7. The French business paper Les Echos asserts that Boeing is now estimating June/July 2011 for first delivery: http://www.lesechos.fr/investisseurs/actualites-boursieres/020990662091-boeing-espere-livrer-ses-787-a-l-ete.htm.

    According to the article:

    “The fire was caused by particles in the cabinet – and not by a misplaced tool, as previously stated. The short circuit resulted in a general failure of the electric network, in spite of software protections. Boeing and its electrical installation partners, Hamilton Sustrand et Zodiac, have therefore been tasked with the rewriting of this key software package.

    “The aim is to complete the modifications by the end of the year, to restart the test flights in January, leading to certification in June. Meanwhile, the aircraft manufacturer has to get the green light from the FAA before being able to restart flight test. If everything goes according to plan, this seventh delay since the start of the program will avoid serious consequences to the delivery schedule.”

    • I should point out that I noticed it was the French press (I first saw the story in La Tribune) who threw the whole spanner in the works (pun intended) by quoting “tool” instead of “foreign object” in the first place. I’m guessing that was a mis-translation, but the fact that they went on to claim the spanner was a “clé de 12” in the headline suggests their journalism is (as is too often the case) sensational and not intimate with the aerospace industry.

      • I am sticking with Dec 2011-Mar 2012 for Entry into Service.

        My hunches are every bit as unreliable as Boeing’s schedules however …

  8. I am curious as to why Boeing would be informing Air France of the first delivery date, and not All Nippon Airways.
    Even if that were the case, why would Air France be blabbing this to Les Echos?
    Would that imply that Air France is in serious negotiations with Boeing vis a vis a 787 order?
    Is this a bargaining tactic or warning to Airbus?
    If Air France is in negotiations with Boeing, could one trust this, in my opinion, totally unofficial estimate for first delivery? I am not certain which would be more troubling: continued silence from Boeing, or a new schedule, once again announced with full confidence.
    If Boeing believes they will be flying the 787 flight test aircraft again in January, what could/should be read into the fact they aren’t really communicating this.

    This is all just so suspenseful!!

  9. MY intelligence sources indicate that the first prodection line number aurcraft to be delivered will be #27, due to the vast amount of redsigned electrical systems that will have to be retrofitted on #1-#26.

    Secondly, my skepticism regards Boeing’s dubious conclusion that FOD was the cause of the fire seems well founded. According to aviation week, one of the electrical contactors in the P-100 panel now seems to be the likly culprit, and appear to be of an enclosed design prohibiting ingress of fod into the contactor mechanism.

    And as an aside on the tanker:

    Boeing has said repeatedly that it did NOT look at the data accidentally sent by the pentagon. However, numerous reports now exist that Boeing is crestfallen over the data it supposedly did not see.

    This would appear to be another massive ethics breach colored with an equally massive fabric of lies and half truths.

    I have been told that every single Noeing employee was compelled to view a video on exactly this scenario (the accidental or intentional access to sensitive competitior data). Boeing, including McNerney and Tinseth said the data was not viewed, and was secured and returned in accordance with Boeing ethics proceedures.

    So which is it?

    Nobody is asking the question because by the end of the week, James Bell would be acting CEO once more.

  10. onemancrew :

    And as an aside on the tanker:
    Boeing has said repeatedly that it did NOT look at the data accidentally sent by the pentagon. However, numerous reports now exist that Boeing is crestfallen over the data it supposedly did not see.
    This would appear to be another massive ethics breach colored with an equally massive fabric of lies and half truths.
    I have been told that every single Noeing employee was compelled to view a video on exactly this scenario (the accidental or intentional access to sensitive competitior data). Boeing, including McNerney and Tinseth said the data was not viewed, and was secured and returned in accordance with Boeing ethics proceedures.
    So which is it?
    Nobody is asking the question because by the end of the week, James Bell would be acting CEO once more.

    PUUUUHHHLEESE ….

    While BA may not have not looked at it the first time- and apparently a forensic analysis of the related computers verified that, you seem to be unaware the a few days later, The Air farce office specifically delivered to both sides the others ‘ cd ” and specifically authorized and invited BOTH sides to read and review- this so as to hopefully make moot the question of what did they know, and when did they know it.

    IT was AFTER such authorization and delivery- admitted to by the Air farce that Boeing thru anon sources let it be known that they may have a loser.

    Whether or not you believe the air force and the ‘officals’ of the Air force involved is an entirely different issue.

    So the FACT that Boeing NOW has the IFRA evaluation data of EADS and vice versa is NOT – repeat NOT an issue for which either side is responsible.

    The result of the wrong delivery as to how it affects the outcome is now the unknown.

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