This morning Boeing announced a new schedule for the 787, saying it now expected delivery of the first unit “in the third quarter of this year.” Boeing said that the six-month delay from its previous schedule resulted from “the time required to produce, install and test updated software and new electrical power distribution panels in the flight test and production airplanes” following an in-flight fire during testing last November.
The original scheduled delivery date was May 2008, but the program — which was ground-breaking both in the all-composite nature of the fuselage and the far-flung nature of the supply chain — has been plagued by a series of delays.
While it will be many years before we see a freighter variant of the 787, the delays in delivery of the passenger variant have impacted the air freight industry in at least two ways.
- First, because carriers have not received the 787s they ordered, they have had to hang on to the aircraft the 787s were going to replace — mainly 767s, but also A300-600s. This has meant that feedstock for passenger-to-freighter conversion programs has remained scarce.
- Second, because carriers were planning to use the 787 for expansion as well as replacement, some have had to delay the opening of new routes, or the upgrading of routes from narrowbody to widebody service, and have therefore been unable to take advantage of new cargo opportunities. (The 787 will be, by design, a tremendous belly freight machine.)
And based on the article last week about EASA expecting to delay certification, my money is thinking Boeing won’t turn over the keys to ANA until 4Q11, earliest. Since USAirways just cancelled 10X A330 orders, those should be snapped up in a hurry by airlines that can’t wait any longer for the 7late7. Maybe they’ll become A330F orders instead.