Boeing’s margin of error to deliver the first 787 by the end of the year appears to have dwindled to near nil, as the company comes to grips with delays associated with test instrumentation configuration changes that program manager Scott Fancher said today could push first delivery to Japan’s ANA “into the very early part of next year.”
“We’ll do a block of testing with one configuration of instrumentation, and then need to change that configuration in order to go on to the next block of testing. And some of those changes have taken a bit longer than planned,” explained Fancher. “That, coupled with some of the inspection work that we’ve seen recently, has led to a little bit of schedule pressure that’s pushing our margin a bit toward the end of the year.”
The inspection work to which Fancher referred centered on “quality issues” such as those found in the airplane’s Alenia-supplied horizontal stabilizers. Last month Boeing found improperly installed shims used to close the gaps between the structures and excessive application of torque on some of the airplanes, forcing a delay to flight testing and inspections of all the airplanes fitted with the suspect components.
“That was one area,” said Fancher. “And we’ve seen a handful of other things that are kind of the normal course of business. This was kind of a cumulative effect on the margin recently.”
Fancher emphasized that none of the “issues” related to the design of the airplane, and that Boeing still plans to deliver the first airplane by year-end. “But we’re seeing enough pressure on the end of the year that we just wanted to kind of communicate a cautionary note,” said Fancher.
Boeing also now expects that the sixth prototype–and the second powered by General Electric GEnx engines–won’t fly until some time next month, a few weeks later than originally planned. “The good news is that it’s one of our more lightly loaded airplanes from a test standpoint, so we’ve been able to re-sequence and keep that airplane off our critical path,” said Fancher.