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.)