Bad week for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner – more delays and cabin smoke

It has been a pretty lousy couple of years for the new Boeing Dreamliner. Initially, the 787 was supposed to be delivered to its first customer in May of 2008 – that was then delayed till November 2008. And since then, the delays have kept on coming.

The previous delay set a 2010 target, but last week it became obvious that they’d hit another snag – so the first delivery won’t take place till some time in 2011.

Delivery delays are not the only issue grounding the new plane – this afternoon one of the flight test planes had to make an emergency landing at Laredo airport after the pilot declared an emergency due to smoke in the cabin. The plane landed, and the 40 members of the test crew had to evacuate down the emergency slides. According to one report, there were several minor injuries.

Boeing and the FAA will gather as much data as they can about the incident, and it is currently unknown what kind of impact this latest setback will have on the 2011 delivery dates.

Update: The Seattle Times reports that the smoke came from a serious fire in the electronic equipment bay of the plane.

The fire affected the cockpit controls, and the the plane lost its flight displays and auto-throttling systems. This means that the plane had to land with limited electronic flight controls. Flames were observed coming from the bay, and a person “close to the situation” said that if the incident had happened at 25,000 feet, the fire could have been extremely serious.

[Photo: JEREMY MELLOUL/AFP/Getty Images]