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Supplier problems lead to more frustrations for the Dreamliner program

Boeing is still having troubles with its famed 787 Dreamliner. The company announced yesterday that it is delaying the first flight of its Dreamliner by three months.

Boeing's next-generation airliner, which makes use of advanced, lightweight materials and extremely efficient engines, is the fastest selling aircraft in Boeing history with the company securing 817 orders from 53 different customers.

The bulk of the delays are blamed on suppliers who continue to work behind schedule stalling the production of the initial Dreamliner prototype according to the Wall Street Journal. Boeing decided to outsource the production of many critical Dreamliner components to companies scattered across the globe in an effort to reduce costs and promote foreign sales.

The decision is now coming back to sting Boeing as a lack of synergy between suppliers is the root cause for the program delays. According to sources close to the Dreamliner program, wiring and cockpit instrumentation hasn't even been installed into the first Dreamliner being readied for flight testing.

Boeing was more diplomatic when describing the supplier issues, "The fundamental design and technologies of the 787 remain sound," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO and president Scott Carson. "However, we continue to be challenged by start-up issues in our factory and in our extended global supply-chain."

Since aircraft engineers need at least two to three months of electrical testing before giving the go ahead to perform test flights, the Dreamliner will not take off until the end of the second quarter according to Boeing. Deliveries of the first production Dreamliner aircraft were also pushed back from late 2008 to early 2009.

"We have brought together the right skills and leadership from around the company to ensure a successful start-up of our global production system," added Dreamliner Vice President and General Manager Pat Shanahan. "We have put the people, structure and processes in place to execute our plan and we will take additional steps to strengthen our team if needed. We have made significant progress in reducing parts shortages, improving fastener availability and achieving static and systems test milestones. We are focused on getting the 787 flying, certified and delivered to our customers."

"This airplane is going to be the basis of every airplane Boeing builds in the future, so it needs to be right," said International Lease Finance Corp. CEO John Plueger. Plueger's leasing company ordered 74 Dreamliners from Boeing making it the single largest customer.

Boeing announced delays to the Dreamliner program in early October 2007 after initially denying the reports. Boeing's revised target for the first flight of the aircraft was changed to Q1 2008 and the first deliveries were changed to November 2008 at the earliest.

The Dreamliner was recently in the news over a damning report from Wired Magazine which claimed that the Dreamliner was vulnerable to attacks from passengers using the wired networking capabilities of the plane. A Boeing engineer and a spokeswoman for the company were quick to dismiss the report.

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By stburke on 1/17/2008 1:59:01 PM , Rating: 2
New technologies = delays. We saw this with the A380, now the 787. More than likely the A350 will be off a few months. Boeing will still hit a homerun with the 787. I just don;t want to see orders lost to Airbus because of this.

RE: bummer
By ebakke on 1/17/2008 2:11:17 PM , Rating: 3
I think Boeing will hold onto their orders, so long as their explanation holds true. It seems more forgivable to have issues with suppliers, than to have a poor design that requires re-engineering.

RE: bummer
By defter on 1/17/2008 3:34:05 PM , Rating: 3
I think holding on orders depends on actual delivery schedule and not on explanations.

In this case it's important to note that 787 hasn't even achieved power-on let alone first flight. Thus there may be some unexpected problems encountered in the future which will introduce significant delays.

RE: bummer
By Cygni on 1/17/2008 5:45:04 PM , Rating: 2
This is absolutely correct. Currently, the airlines see the A350 and 787 as equivalents as shown by Qatar's orders. Delivery date is the primary factor for placing an order for one over the other. As it stands, production slots for both makers are sold out to the same month.

Any slips in the delivery schedule for the A350 or 787 will directly lead to orders of its competitor.

RE: bummer
By timmiser on 1/17/2008 6:31:50 PM , Rating: 1
That is a pretty big stretch to assume that. The A350 and 787 are just too different. Nothing competes with the 787 right now which is why it is selling so well.

RE: bummer
By Cygni on 1/17/2008 7:08:08 PM , Rating: 2
Thats completely not true. The A350XWB was (re)designed directly to compete with the 787. While the A350 has larger variants available than the 787 (for now), the A350-800 and 787-9 directly compete with one another in nearly every category. The two aircraft are hardly 'too different' to compete. They directly fight for every order!

Make no mistake, the A350 and 787 are competing. And what I stated was hardly a stretch. A quote from AviationWeek:
"In fact, Qatar Airways, also a purchaser of both, says the determining factors for them were simply slot availability and fleet renewal needs."
Just as I stated, it all comes down to slot availability. If you slip? You are going to lose orders you otherwise might have had.

RE: bummer
By ikkeman on 1/17/2008 7:32:05 PM , Rating: 2
thought the 787 and 350 do differ in many ways, they don't in their promised performance, which is the only thing the airlines care about.

RE: bummer
By UppityMatt on 1/17/2008 2:30:25 PM , Rating: 1
I personally dont think Boeing will loose any orders over this. The 787 is an amazing aircraft, and i would rather ride in a Boeing than an Airbus any day.

RE: bummer
By EuroGamer on 1/17/2008 3:39:55 PM , Rating: 2
I dunno about that... Airbus has a much better safety record and when I fly, I like knowing I'm safe :)

RE: bummer
By Ringold on 1/17/2008 8:37:37 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not sure how valid claims of relative safety are.. The very first major 777 accident occured today apparently in England, cause unknown. Pilots said something about a loss of power on what sounded like short final, but authorities are apparently investigating all possible causes. Regardless, one passenger didn't even know it was a crash until it the masks fell down it was so soft (thanks to landing in the grass short of the runway).

Also, last year the United States suffered not a single crash by a big commercial operator, the safest year since 1998. A single incident this year, while being meaningless in the grand scheme of statistics, can still be turned around and said to be a 100% increase over last year.

Or.. wait.. 1/0.. *dies*

RE: bummer
By amanojaku on 1/17/2008 3:42:58 PM , Rating: 2
I don't get it. People ripped Airbus because of the A380 delays, but there seems to be no flack for Boeing. Doesn't seem fair.

RE: bummer
By Sulphademus on 1/17/2008 4:19:34 PM , Rating: 2
Rebuilding the Titanic probably made it a bigger target.
Also, the rumors of their construction proceedure for this jet is absurd (I dont know what the 787's is).

Building the F-22 of airliners is harder to do and, perhaps people may be more forgiving of the large hurdles to jump.

RE: bummer
By ikkeman on 1/17/2008 5:18:07 PM , Rating: 2
The A380 and B787 are about equally hign on the "Newness" scale.

The one is 40% bigger than any commercial airliner now flying, the other has 40% more composite in it.

I think the difference in reaction comes from the fact that airbus announced a large delay at once while boeing does several smaller delays...

RE: bummer
By theapparition on 1/17/2008 6:12:20 PM , Rating: 4
I think the difference in reaction comes from the fact that airbus announced a large delay at once while boeing does several smaller delays...

No, the difference is that Airbus is over 2 years behind schedule and growing. Boeing is only slightly behind. Big difference, no?

RE: bummer
By CubicleDilbert on 1/17/2008 7:43:21 PM , Rating: 2
exactly, until they announce another small delay...
and then some short postponement for something unforeseen and another delay with a ridiculous excuse.

Airline purchase managers are more realistic and already check their contracted fine payments they receive.

RE: bummer
By ikkeman on 1/17/2008 7:43:33 PM , Rating: 2
boeing is now heading towards a full year, airbus is delivering (no more delays)...

RE: bummer
By theapparition on 1/18/2008 9:06:39 AM , Rating: 2
Airbus is starting to deliver, but are also running into supplier issues, same as Boeing, and their delivery dates are still increasing.

RE: bummer
By timmiser on 1/17/2008 6:37:22 PM , Rating: 2
There is much more pressure on Airbus with the A380 because the stakes are much higher so therefore the criticism is higher. Airbus is betting the company on the A380 and until Airbus starts receiving a return on their investment, they cannot afford to take on any new endeavors such as designing a competitor to the 787.

RE: bummer
By CubicleDilbert on 1/17/2008 7:47:37 PM , Rating: 2
The A350XWB is already in full design phase with thousands of engineers.

You seem not to up to date with business procedures in the aviation industry. Airbus already sold 150 A350 models and is taking in orders, although only one A380 has been delivered so far.

RE: bummer
By ohbrilliance on 1/17/2008 9:53:30 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, they've just delivered the second A380:

RE: bummer
By ikkeman on 1/17/2008 7:49:28 PM , Rating: 2
yet they are...

RE: bummer
By kraftfahrzeug on 1/17/2008 3:53:41 PM , Rating: 2
This has very little to do with problems created by new technologies. It's mostly because Boeing and their suppliers get caught up in typical bureaucratic problems. Change in spec on a part? From Boeing to the supplier and back, that's going to have to go through probably three or four different people and steps. Each step has its own hang-ups and processing delays, potentially several business days each. For a part being developed in-house, Boeing might have completed process within 48 hours. Dealing with a supplier, it may take two weeks.

Not saying they shouldn't be dealing with such a wide variety of outside suppliers. They just need to be better at it.

RE: bummer
By CubicleDilbert on 1/22/2008 6:36:26 AM , Rating: 2
/troll mode on
I just happened again today.
China ordered another 35 Airbus A350XWB. They became tired of Boeing's delays and utterly frustrated that their Asian competitors all get the new shiny Airbus, while the 787 has not even made a little hop on the tarmac. Actually it not even had their engines turned on because the wings would fall off due to fake rivets that they used to show off during their presentation.

At least Airbus is delivering and leaving the mess to Boeing now, who have more experience with messy internals.
315 confirmed orders for the A350 will make some Boeing executives yell at their staff.
/troll mode off

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain
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