Dreamliner first flight postponed. Again.

Just when it seemed like Boeing was finally really making progress in getting the 787 Dreamliner into the air they’ve hit another snag.  This time it seems that there are structural deficiencies in the “side-of-body” section of the plane, requiring that area to be reengineered to provide additional support.  This was discovered during the testing of one of the planes on the full-scale static test rig and was announced this morning.

First flight and first delivery will be rescheduled following the final determination of the required modification and testing plan. It will be several weeks before the new schedule is available. The 787 team will continue with other aspects of testing on Airplane #1, including final gauntlet testing and low-speed taxiing. Work will also continue on the other five flight test aircraft and the subsequent aircraft in the production system.

Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes said a team of experts has already identified several potential solutions.

"Consideration was given to a temporary solution that would allow us to fly as scheduled, but we ultimately concluded that the right thing was to develop, design, test and incorporate a permanent modification to the localized area requiring reinforcement. Structural modifications like these are not uncommon in the development of new airplanes, and this is not an issue related to our choice of materials or the assembly and installation work of our team," Carson said.

The good news is that they are continuing with the other testing needed to get the plane ready to fly, but they are still looking at a delay of “several weeks” before the new schedule is even announced, so figure that the entire delivery schedule will push a couple months now.  Not good news for the manufacturer or the airlines who have been waiting for years to receive their new planes.  Then again, the airlines don’t have to pay for the planes until they are delivered so the delay here – in the midst of one of the most significant industry downturns in history – might not be such a bad thing for the carriers.

I like that Boeing is going to just wait to get the plane actually into its final configuration before putting it up in the air but the additional delay certainly is frustrating – and I’m not even financially vested in the success of the program. 

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.