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]

Boeing Dreamliner 787 finally ready for its maiden flight

In what has become a common trend in new airplane launches, the Boeing Dreamliner 787 has suffered delay after delay. Her initial maiden flight was scheduled for the end of August 2007, with deliveries to start taking place in May 2008.

When Boeing engineers discovered problems getting pieces to fit together, the launch was delayed. Then delayed again, and finally in June of this year, it was delayed yet again.

Thankfully, all the problems have been taken care of, and the newest jet from Boeing is set to take to the skies on December 15th at 10 a.m. PST. A web site dedicated to the maiden flight has been created, which should go live tomorrow morning (24 hours before the flight).

Fingers crossed all goes well – engineers are examining the test data from a series of ground tests, including one which pushed the plane to 150mph, lifting the nose wheel from the ground. Of course, all the technology in the world can’t help prevent bad weather – which is one of the few remaining factors that could delay the test flight.

Boing 787 “Dreamliner” maiden flight delayed again

Poor Boeing. They are right in the middle of one of the worst economic downturns in their history, and their newest plane is creating a bit of a disaster of its own.

The 787 Dreamliner was scheduled to take its first flight early last year, but they realized back then that it could be moved to September 2008. We are now in the Summer of 2009 and Boeing is on their sixth delay.

The delay comes just one week after a horrible Paris Air Show, which is traditionally where Boeing announces a boatload of orders, but this year Airbus beat them, though neither manufacturer had that much good news to report. Airbus reported 112 aircraft sales, Boeing only sold 2.

The bad news is having a horrible effect on the share price of Boeing, which is down over 7% this morning (at the time of writing).

Still, fingers crossed that they sort out the problems with the plane. It really is a beauty, but it won’t do them (or their customers) any good if it just sits on the runway. By now I am sure Boeing will be regretting laughing at the problems Airbus encountered in building the massive A380 double-decker plane.

Could the 787 be delayed again?

The last few months have been a little rough for Boeing. After all but laughing at their rival Airbus for delays related to their A380 program, the Chicago based airframe manufacturer has pushed back the delivery of their new 787 composite aircraft twice, citing supply chain and final construction issues.

Then, earlier this month, Boeing lost a key Department of Defense contract for airborne tankers to the European air and space conglomerate, EADS, in a performance based competition.

Now, some airline analysts are starting to predict another, more significant delay for the embattled aircraft. Construction and integration of the wing box, a critical section on the underbelly that interfaces with the wings, holds fuel and connects to the landing gear, appears to be the source of the issue. Steven Udvar-Hazy, chairman of International Lease Finance Corp, Boeing’s largest customer recently highlighted the problems and referred to the situation as “not pretty”.

This is, however, one opinion from one analyst in the industry. Boeing hasn’t made an official statement on the matter, stating that they’ve been “focused on [their] near-term milestones of power on and first flight”, but Yyvone Leach, their Senior 787 PR contact did proffer this foreshadowing:

“It is normal during the development of a new airplane to discover the need for design enhancements. We are working with our partners to address the need for design changes in some areas. While these changes are not good for final assembly because they are dealing with traveled work at this time, the design changes are not the sole pacing item.”

The program update for media and analysts is scheduled for April 23. Perhaps things will be more transparent by then.

Check out James Wallace’s blog for more info (and speculation).