BREAKING: Boeing postpones 787 first flight

12:10 PM: Comment from ANA:

“We are disappointed that the first flight of the787 will be postponed, and urge Boeing to specify the schedule for theprogramme as a whole as quickly as possible.”

10:46 AM: Shanahan and Fancher confirm that the problem stems from 18 points where the center wing box (11) meets the wingbox (12) on each side of the aircraft. The fix, once identified, will be installed on location. ZA001 and ZA002 will be modified directly on the flight line. Boeing has not determined a final fix or the material it will use to fix the join. Fancher says the company is leaning towards titanium or aluminum and the fabriction division is ready to start manufacturing parts as soon as a final fix is identified.

10:01 AM: On the conference call now.

10:00 AM: Early indications from sources signal that the problem was first discovered during static testing in April on ZY997.The problem stems from a design fault in the wing-to-body join area between Section 11 (center wing box) and Section 12 (wing box).

9:40 AM: Boeing postpones 787 first flight citing modifications to the side-of-body section of the aircraft.

EVERETT, Wash., June 23 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — Boeing (NYSE: BA)today announced that first flight of the 787 Dreamliner will bepostponed due to a need to reinforce an area within the side-of-bodysection of the aircraft.

The need was identified during the recent regularly scheduledtests on the full-scale static test airplane. Preliminary analysisindicated that flight test could proceed this month as planned.However, after further testing and consideration of possible modifiedflight test plans, the decision was made late last week that firstflight should instead be postponed until productive flight testingcould occur.

Boeing says a new schedule will be available within several weeks once a modification is identified. Sources tell FlightBlogger that 787 customers were notified earlier today of the new delay. Key questions for the program will surround the timing on the flight test program, delivery schedule and further weight gain on the aircraft.

Boeing will hold a teleconference at 10:00 AM ET with Scott Carson, Pat Shanahan and Scott Fancher. Follow this page for coverage throughout the day.

99 Responses to BREAKING: Boeing postpones 787 first flight

  1. John June 23, 2009 at 9:27 am #

    I won’t be going to Boeing this weekend as I Just read a press release that reports yet another delay. I remember, a long time ago, when It would have been you that broke this story.

  2. Howard June 23, 2009 at 9:29 am #

    Will somone please explain why Carson still has a job at Boeing????

  3. Jason June 23, 2009 at 9:37 am #

    What is this now, 2 years delay before the first flight?

    And on the A380 the real problems started once flight testing commenced.

  4. Anthony June 23, 2009 at 9:38 am #

    This is absolutely ridiculous. What the heck do they say that the plane is going to fly as scheduled at the airshow? Boeing, you are disappointing customers. I would expect some cancellations due to this.

  5. just wondering June 23, 2009 at 9:54 am #

    Howard,there’s many of us on the 787 program that have been asking that same question!

  6. Pedro June 23, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    Sigh… this is beyond dissappointing.

    Anyboyd know if this affects all the frames or just Z001?

  7. Edouard June 23, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    On the A 380, problems commenced well after flight testing, which started almost on schedule and went fine till certification.

  8. Raoul June 23, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    John, I enjoy your blog but I hope you and all the other writers (I consider you better than a mere blogger) will learn something from this.

    Especiall the so called ‘Aviation industry analysts”

    Don’t become so starstruck by Boeing and it’s handlers that it impairs the facts. Boing mught give you data, it might toss out some swag and some shiney, but facts? You have to get those for yourself.

    Yes, I know, ‘WTH is this guy talking about?’.

    Think about it John, you have been expertly stroked and groomed by one of the best PR machines in the world.

    You aren’t writing about the hype, you have become part of it.

    Boeing is a very troubled company, and has been for a dozen years now.

    As shareholders lick their wounds over the past few days of sell-down, incurring massive losses(again) we again wonder where the truth begins and ends with Boeing, and particularly where managerial and executive competance is or is not present.

    It’s our fault too. If we didn’t choose to believe them we thought maybe, just maybe they couldn’t blow it again at this late stage.

    Yes, I know, the focus of this blog is on the technical/commercial aspects of aerospace, it’s not an investors symposium. But real damage has and is being done, not just to us, but to the company. This is not just another routine development difficulty. This smacks of a deep, deep flaw in Boeing’s current methodologies and philosopy of doing business.

    The sort of “Go Fever” exhibited and egged on by Boeing itself is bad mode of thinking to be in. It cannot turn out well. I’m sorry, but it just cannot. Focusing on every minute detail right down to every engine start or the most meaningless movement of the aircraft on the ramp misses the point entirely.

    The bloggers, the aerospace press, et-al, just consistently give Boeing a pass. Nobody is digging, nobody is asking tough questions.

    It’s my opinion that Boeing never had control of this program to lose it. The test program is rushed. Boing management and the media are infected with GO FEVER.

    And that is a very, very dangerous thing to have.

  9. Pedro June 23, 2009 at 10:07 am #

    Well I guess I got my answer.

    Very very dissapointing.

  10. bugref June 23, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    I have no idea how they built the plane, but It would be nice if they will change their priority to ZA002, In my own opinion since ZA001 has structural integrity issues, Why not move on a clean ZA002 and start from then onward.

  11. Bob June 23, 2009 at 10:29 am #

    @Raoul : That’s a little presumptuous of you lecturing John from on not being factual enough as a reporter, let alone uncovering information which could not have been figured out short of interrogating employees and tricking/forcing them to break NDAs. You won’t get better info than here. Keep up the great work John!

    Otherwise, agree with points on Boeing’s misguidance. Airbus copped a lot (rightly so) during the painful A380 birth, and have taken some deep infrasturctural remedial steps which are slowly but surely doing what they were intended to. Boeing seems to have gotten off a lot lighter, it’s a case of not looking out of fear for what will be discovered, I’m afraid. Replacing management won’t cut it this time. This program was misguided from way back, it’s clear reading the signals from outside.

    How on earth is Boeing going to cut the estimated “up to” 8% weight overruns, without compromising balance and performance. Common sense says that figure isn’t spread evenly across suppliers. There must be one or two “large” culprits, which may have even built to spec. Who designed the parts and got it wrong? Why did the wing break “well above” 150%? That’s a whole lot of overengineering that’s not needed. Someone needs to radically sort things out, but I fear it’s too late. This aircraft won’t meet the hype, which is what it’s been sold on.

    Unfortunately there will be more delays, and there will be cancellations, soon. The tremendous amount of damage being caused is going to have reverberations for years, and Boeing’s next chance to regain a prestigous lead over Airbus may be up the better part of a decade away.

    The A350 is very nearly on par with 787 program by value, and will trump it soon now that this has happened.

  12. Luke (Wichita) June 23, 2009 at 10:31 am #

    @ bugref: this problem was found on the static test article (not ZA001). It affects all line numbers equally.

  13. June 23, 2009 at 10:33 am #

    Oh my goodness. Maybe its about time some orders are
    cancelled so they will be able to deliver the rest in
    time. Lets just hope, they dont rush the program into
    a catastrophy.

  14. Gabe June 23, 2009 at 10:49 am #

    I find this extremely embarrassing for Boeing and quite disturbing to a future passenger.
    How can they find major structural issues after a delays of 2 years?!
    plus – was not the Z001 hammered together because the different parts were of the wrong size and it had all the fasteners replaced? how realistic is a test done on an airplane which I sincerely hope has nothing to do with the structure of the final ones?

  15. diane June 23, 2009 at 11:02 am #

    I’m a software engineer, not an aeronautical engineer, but I can see a few things here.

    First, quality and safety trumped “go fever.” Good for Boeing on that one.

    Second, I’m concerned that it took two months to make this decision after ZY997 was damaged in testing. Even allowing time for analysis and problem determination, wny so long?

    Third, from long experience watching outsourced projects go south, I’d have to guess that the degree of outsourcing not only of manufacturing, but especially of design, is the fundamental flaw in the 787 program. Especially with this degree of new technology. This was a setup for failure.

    Fourth, the A350 is a long way from completion. It’s also being rushed to catch up with the 787. There’s no justification in believing that the A350 will stay on schedule, or within weight allowances, or anytghing else. The A350 will have to prove itself, and Murphy’s Law does not play favorites.

  16. alexandar June 23, 2009 at 11:09 am #

    First do we still believe whatever management tells us.

    How do we know this problem is the only one? Will they disclose all issues found so far?

    Are they using this as an excuse to cover up bigger problems, such as the 787 may never fly?

    Are we witnessing another GM in the making?

  17. diane June 23, 2009 at 11:14 am #

    @Gabe, I’m not hugely concerned that it took “2 years” to find a structural problem. This is more than likely a problem discovered during the wing loading test, which was essentially a “test to destruction” test on a completed airframe. I seriously doubt that testing on individual components would have uncovered this problem, although I could very well be wrong about that. This is why you do system tests as well as component tests and integration tests. Each type of testing finds different kinds of problems.

    As for why it wasn’t found two years ago, the simplistic answer is that there wasn’t a testable airframe two years ago. The answer for that lies elsewhere.

  18. tops June 23, 2009 at 11:34 am #

    At the end of the day, this is embarrassing for Boeing and one in the eye for all the schadenfreude merchants who laughed when Airbus had problems getting the A380 fit-out nailed. That Boeing allowed their management of this problem, known since April, to get out of control in such a way as to be still confidently predicting first flight on June 30th (and thereby only just squeaking in on their most up-to-date launch timetable) beggars belief.

    As a Boeing lover, I hope that this is the last of the banana skins to be encountered on the 787 programme. I regret, however, that this is unfortunately unlikely to be the case. I have always thought that Boeing’s aggressive test plan timetable (once the plane actually gets in the air, and I believe it will) was unrealistic and now have even more reason to believe this.

    As an Airbus lover too, I hope that they will learn from both Boeing’s and their problems and bring the 350 in on time or be better at communicating with everyone if it isn’t. Again, I regret I do not believe this is a realistic hope either.

    The future is no longer now. For the moment it’s tomorrow or, more likely, the day after!

  19. Roger Fields June 23, 2009 at 11:49 am #

    Boeing says that they delayed first flight because the flight envelope would be to small for productive flight testing.
    Sorry, don’t buy that.
    Why getting all this negative publicity if a first flight would have been possible? Why not performing first flight by June 30 while they were thinking about a fix?
    Believe me, the problem is bigger then Boeing admids, otherwise, they would have gone for first flight by June 30 regardless of the smaller flight envelope.

  20. JE June 23, 2009 at 11:58 am #

    There are negative margins in the wingbox probably(?) due to the weight reduction program long ago. Stiffeners had to be added then. If not then there was a lack of margin in the original design due to flawed loadpath modeling and/or execution. Doesn’t instill confidence.

    Boeing management hasn’t produced a new plane since the 777. Douglas since the DC10. Perhaps this was a ‘dot com’ approach to large commercial aircraft.The 787-9 will be a great plane but they can’t build it until all the crap shakes out of the 8.

  21. Tedster June 23, 2009 at 12:09 pm #

    So, is this what Al Baker of Qatar was referring to when he said that he had “serious issues with Boeing” and was contemplating cancelling, or is it an additional straw that will now break the camel’s back, as it were?

  22. Edouard June 23, 2009 at 12:20 pm #

    Carson confesses that stresses discovered were “in excess of modelled expectations”. This aknowledgement should put some pressure on the FAA (JAA will surely notice, too), with regard to the credibility of Boeing’s in house quality certification. But contrary to the 787 program, Boeing’s PR machine is moving ahead fullspeed! (see for instance

  23. lynn June 23, 2009 at 12:28 pm #

    stupid crapliner…ive already stopped following its progress back in 2007 when it was supposed to fly.

  24. David June 23, 2009 at 1:00 pm #

    Where did you get the 787 model you use in the video?

  25. engineer June 23, 2009 at 1:16 pm #

    I have said all along that first flight has been pushed back to next month. Guess nobody noticed it. So my reliable source was very reliable in the sense that first flight has been delayed.

    Photo of Note: A wingletted Atlantic crossing
    By engineer on June 12, 2009 12:05 AM
    Can anyone else confirm? I have heard the 787 first flight has been pushed back to next month due to technical issues.

    Video: Rocking the 787 gauntlet
    By engineer on June 11, 2009 4:37 AM
    I have heard from a “reliable” source that the first flight has been pushed back to next month.

    I don’t know how accurate this information is but can anyone confirm this?

  26. The Airline Blog June 23, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    I think there are a lot of frustrated people with this delay. Yes, the plane has been delayed for a lot of political issues, but this time it is about safety. Would you want to be the test pilot flying it for the first time with faulty fasteners? Delaying the first flight a few more weeks/months will give bad press, but much better than something going terribly wrong on that first flight.

    Thanks Jon for covering this in such great detail!

    David Parker Brown

  27. lynn is dumb June 23, 2009 at 1:38 pm #

    Lynn> Is that why you’re posting your comments here, on a blog that closely follows the progress (or lack thereof) of the 787?

  28. Brian June 23, 2009 at 1:42 pm #

    ….so if you’re not following the progress, what are you doing here, Lynn?

  29. pundit June 23, 2009 at 1:44 pm #

    To give credit where it’s due, Boeing senior managers, and particularly Mike Bair, had been saying from Day 1 that 787 would fly “when it’s ready to fly…” An early article re 787 delays was this one in a Paris air-show ‘daily’ two years ago (June 20, 2007):

    “Boeing has made plans to accommodate any delays in the first-flight schedule for its new Model 787 twin-aisle twinjet now in final assembly at Everett, Washington. The first aircraft is scheduled to be rolled out on July 8 and will be the company’s first new airliner for 13 years. Having overcome various circumstances that already have led to subassemblies arriving incomplete from suppliers, the U.S. manufacturer is being characteristically frank in conceding the possibility of slippage beyond a one-month window already built into the program.

    “The 787 is programmed to fly around “the end of August, or in September,” officials saying that there was a four-week allowance from the initial date before further delay would put pressure on the May 2008 service-entry date. On the eve of the show here in Paris, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Scott Carson reportedly estimated “mid-September” as a prospective date for first flight, a timing not challenged here yesterday by 787 program general manager and vice-president Mike Bair.

    “Bair confirmed the current window to ‘Aviation International News’, saying, “We look like we’ll end up somewhere in there.” Asked how much later than, say, September 15 the aircraft could fly without endangering the delivery schedule, Bair said, “We’ve got plans about what to do if we go past that.” He said that four weeks from “the end of August” did not constitute a “finite period.”

    “Frequently, Bair and other Boeing executives have been careful to say “the 787 will fly when it’s ready to fly,”…”

  30. Mark June 23, 2009 at 1:49 pm #

    Jon – great video and narrative. As always, your reporting is second to none.

  31. Will June 23, 2009 at 1:54 pm #

    @David, the model 787 is from

    Jon is in the CNN green room and should be on air ~2 PM.

  32. Brian June 23, 2009 at 2:10 pm #

    The sad fact is Boeing knew in May that this aircraft wasn’t getting into the air in June yet as typical fashion, waits until the 11th hour.

    All a measure to save face at the Paris Air Show.

  33. just wondering June 23, 2009 at 2:31 pm #

    It’s easier to pull the teeth out of the mouth of a starving alligator than it is to get upper management to listen to the people that actually work on the plane. Also,when I was working in the Renton plant in ’07 I heard rumors of problems with the wing box. Heard it had to be re-designed. I wonder now if the rumors were true or did Boeing say “Problem? There’s no problem! Full steam ahead!”

  34. Jerry1t June 23, 2009 at 2:35 pm #

    I am still trying to digest the Boeing Conference call and decide whether the explaination is a satisfactory one or whether it is an explaination of a failure of preparation.

    In either case it is a delay and disappointment. In one case it is another bump in the road to success. In the other, it is an interference with success and may mask other issues that the 787 team has not been able to coordinate.

    We all hope it is the former but are discouraged by the number of bumps we have had to go over already.

    Any other observations of the Conference call

  35. Vero Venia June 23, 2009 at 3:29 pm #

    Sounds like local-non-linear behavior of the structure.


  36. Vero Venia June 23, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    Sorry for those who are not familiar with structural concepts. Here is an explanation of buckling in wikipedia:

    “In engineering, buckling is a failure mode characterized by a sudden failure of a structural member subjected to high compressive stresses, where the actual compressive stress at the point of failure is less than the ultimate compressive stresses that the material is capable of withstanding.”

  37. engineer June 23, 2009 at 3:34 pm #

    People, people, people take it easy. From an engineering point of view
    I would rather that this plane flies when it is ready to fly. Airlines will be disappointed, but the repercussions would be enormous if this plane flies and ends up in a catastrophic failure of some kind.
    The significance of static testing has proven itself.
    Boeing’s reputaion is important to them, the pressure from airlines is not going to change how boeing runs this program. and as Boeing indicated 787 will fly when it is ready to fly.

  38. Paula K June 23, 2009 at 3:52 pm #

    I agree with Howard. Carson should now step aside.

    There’s been 3 new 787 managers, BCA could do with new direction too.

    Very good run down of the corporate speak here, although Boeing still needs new leadership:

  39. Jerry1t June 23, 2009 at 3:53 pm #

    I still do not understand how this problem showed up on the wing bend test but managed to get so far towards first flight without alarm.

  40. EssVee June 23, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    Jeepers, you guys are a bunch of whiners!

    Anybody who has been involved in large-scale engineering or software projects will have some understanding of the complexity of this project. You are all so quick to criticise! Perhaps you think you are so superior you could do it better? Did your last project meet every deadline and work perfectly first time?

    Here we have a company that is being as transparent as is commercially sensible, admitting to a problem & laying out their planning to address the issue. Would you rather they did not tell you? Would you rather have an unsafe plane?

    Get Real guys !!

  41. alloycowboy June 23, 2009 at 4:21 pm #

    Hey Jon,

    Great video explaination of the problem area. I am glad Boeing is taking a cautious approach to first flight. Their is no point risking ZA001 for a very limited test flight and have the aiplane down for a month for modifications.(Hopefully it won’t take that long to fix, but is better safe then sorry).

    Here is a question for you. Have you been caught making airplane sounds while holding the 787 model yet? Old habbits die hard, eh?

  42. alexandar June 23, 2009 at 4:21 pm #

    Why did Boeing said the static test was successful? Should they disclose that there are issues that may affect first flight and they are working on a fix? These are no minor matters.

  43. Wes June 23, 2009 at 4:34 pm #

    This is going to have a very, very serious impact on the orders backlog and on Boeings reputation going forward. They had better do a far better job on the 777 & 737 replacements or they are history as a company. Perhaps they should give themselves an extra 5 years on those projects by starting at this time.

  44. Rick June 23, 2009 at 4:34 pm #

    I agree 100% with what engineer has said – a delay is not good news, but this is far better than pushing for first flight anyway and ending up with little pieces of 787 all over Puget Sound, or worse, a community.

    This program has had a number of problems from the start, endless empty “first flight” target dates, etc. The pressures on management and the engineering staff to get this thing in the air must be enormous, but I commend them for not bending to that pressure and letting ZA001 fly when it is actually ready. We can talk all day about Boeing’s PR Machine, but this should prove that when it really matters the company’s focus is in the right place.


  45. AirShowFan June 23, 2009 at 4:35 pm #

    alexandar: “How do we know this problem is the only one? Will they disclose all issues found so far?”. Of course we can’t know that. Boeing releases estimated times for first flight, deliveries, etc. Issues that delay those things are probably worth disclosing, and issues that don’t, aren’t. Raoul “Nobody is digging, nobody is asking tough questions”. Boeing has certain duties to inform shareholders and customers and partners, but other than that, they’ll probably only disclose things if it’s good PR or to mitigate bad PR, as far as I can tell. If you were managing a project for a company and a reporter started to ask you questions you didn’t want to answer, what’s to stop you from saying “It’s none of your business”?

    diane: “the wing loading test was essentially a ‘test to destruction’ on a completed airframe”. No, the test to destruction only tested the center box, the completed airframe has not been tested to destruction, as far as I know. (See the video on the “NewAirplane” website). As for “the degree of outsourcing … especially of design, is the fundamental flaw in the 787 program”, I wouldn’t say it’s a “flaw”, just a new way of doing things that has caused a lot of trouble. But once this system gets figured out, it will probably pay for itself. Boeing is in effect still “investing” into figuring out this outsourcing thing, so right now I think it’s a little early to say that it was a mistake, although it might be. (The same could be said for doing so much of the manufacturing in distant factories and airlifting big sections to Everett… It’s hard to say whether the benefits outweigh the costs, but they probably do). But anyways, I do agree with the rest of your comment: all kinds of tests are important and are done as soon as possible and as soon as they can reveal useful things.

    Roger Fields: “Why not performing first flight by June 30 while they were thinking about a fix?”. Maybe because modifying an airplane might change the results of those flight tests so Boeing might need to do them over again anyways after the mod (although this is probably not the case since the impact of the mod on performance is supposed to be negligible). Maybe because interrupting flight test for the mod and then getting it going again would be too inconvenient. (In other words, making a temporary fix and then doing some flight testing and then making the permanent mod and then doing more flight testing might take longer and/or be more expensive than just doing the mod right in the first place). Maybe because the safety margins given this structural problem would cause the safe-flight envelope to be too small, and you don’t want pilots being afraid to take the airplane wherever in the envelope they need to take it if issues arise during flight.

    Vero Venia: “… non-linear behavior of the structure …”. If you expect structure to behave linearly as it approaches failure, you have not taken a whole lot of engineering courses. “Buckling? …”. I’m pretty sure that some aero structure is actually designed to buckle, to behave well in the post-buckle regime. Buckling cannot necessarily be equated with failure.

    Raoul: “Maybe they couldn’t blow it again at this late stage… This is not just another routine development difficulty. This smacks of a deep, deep flaw in Boeing’s current methodologies and philosopy of doing business”. I don’t see how. People make mistakes, it is rare for analysis to be perfectly accurate, so engineers run tests to catch those things and fix them before they are a problem. Are you saying that unless Boeing’s designers create every system and every bit of structure perfectly the first time, the company is “deeply flawed”? If you get everything 100% right the first time, then good for you, but most people don’t. By the way, you may want to avoid reading about how operating systems are developed; You’d be appalled…

    In other words… Okay, we have very few details about what the problem actually is and why the decision on how to fix it took so long. But Boeing does have PR people doing what PR people are supposed to do, Boeing doesn’t have to be totally open about every little thing, Boeing’s predictions on flight/delivery dates are never (and never have been) set in stone (they’re basically “If all goes well…”), and Boeing is testing things thoroughly and methodically for the sake of safety and to make sure they deliver a good product. We all know all this. So I don’t see what the big deal is.

    Jon: Keep up the great work!

  46. Rick June 23, 2009 at 4:46 pm #

    A couple of questions:

    Will the modifications planned for the wingbox have to be performed and fully tested on the static test frame before ZA001 is modified and cleared for first flight? Given the inaccuracy of their original model, does this raise any questions about the strength or integrity of other parts of the structure?

    Your thoughts?


  47. 787 Structural Analyst June 23, 2009 at 5:14 pm #

    This is at least a year long delay. Buckling + delamination of co-molded fuselage stringers is clearly a fundamental design issue.

    Doesn’t make sense to apply a quick fix for certification. But they will drill some holes and put in some fasteners and call it good.

  48. alexandar June 23, 2009 at 5:27 pm #

    Airshowfan, all you are saying is that Boeing did nothing wrong, even if they have to change the center box.

  49. Gus June 23, 2009 at 5:32 pm #

    Thanks Jon for taking us through the problems Boeing is facing with the 787. Needless to say it is disastrous for the company (and suppliers) to announce a problem of this type at such late stage when all eyes are on them to deliver. It’s sending shockwaves on the robustness and ultimately the safety implications of using composites on critical areas of an aircraft. Boeing appears to have overplayed its hand on the use of composites as this problem (wing box) has not got away and who knows what other highly stressed joints may also need reinforcing (tail, rudders?). It seems that Airbus more cautious approach on the use of composites is the right one. Time will tell but, not good news for Boeing.

  50. Steve June 23, 2009 at 5:41 pm #

    Just some questions about further delay:

    – How long has the fix to be tested in the test bed on ZY997?
    – Is a broken structure on ZY997 capable to handle those test?
    – Don´t they need a total new unstressed airframe?
    – They had two months to find a solution to solve the problem, how long will they need?
    – If the material behavior ist off size as expected, why ist this only at those named areas around the wingbox the case?
    - Is it necessary to modify the formers only or do they have to redesign the carbon airframe?
    – As they put fasteners from a building center into the fuselage just to meet roll out scedule, wouldn´t they (PR) do anything to keep first flight date if possible?

    From my opinion there is a major design issue causing massive flight safety, so they delayed first flight today.

  51. Maria June 23, 2009 at 6:31 pm #

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  52. Liembo June 23, 2009 at 7:11 pm #

    787 Structural Analyst: Are you quoting fron events in March 2008 or are these new buckling events pertaining directly to the current delay?

  53. anonymous June 23, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

    I’m surprised management didn’t blame the 57 day Machinist Strike for the problem…
    BTW- Doesn’t anyone remember when Boeing said they needed to reinforce the wingbox in the early initial manufacturing phase before ZA001 was even completed?
    Things that make you go, hmmmmm.

  54. jerry June 23, 2009 at 7:33 pm #

    just when things are going so smooth… BAM!

  55. DAFlieger June 23, 2009 at 8:06 pm #

    Thanks Jon for this great Blog. You do a wonderful job.

    About the delay:

    -I also believe that the new delay hints to a bigger problem than admitted by Boeing. Being such a complex plane with so many software-based systems, software bugs can (and I’m afraid the will) kill. Therefore, if they could fly the plane even with a reduced flying envelop, they would still have a HUGE benefit. May be not for certification, but for product maturity (a.k.a. debugging)

    –to EssVee: I understand your point, but it is Boeing the company who has been trying to make this plane fly during the last 2, and still haven’t acchieved that. May be, it is normal, but then it is one of the worst examples of expectation management ever. Really.

  56. DAFlieger June 23, 2009 at 8:18 pm #

    The delay also cannot be to save money: when they decide not to fly, they risk billions in compensations and cancelled orders… Money is definitely not the issue.

    Besides, Boeing also lost around 8% its value in Wall Street today. Those are many billions. No, money/costs are not the issue for not flying… doesn’t make any sense. It is Risk. And it unfortunately must be very high.

    I love Boeing planes (I’m a 777 fan), so I hope they come up with a really really good explanation and get the 787 right.

  57. Anonymous June 23, 2009 at 8:27 pm #

    REF – “Doesn’t anyone remember when Boeing said they needed to reinforce the wingbox in the early initial manufacturing phase before ZA001 was even completed?”

    May be higher-ups decided to wait for actual test results before making any firm decision. Well, I guess it’s time to bite the bullet.

  58. iceman June 23, 2009 at 10:08 pm #

    I spent over 30 years at Boeing in the flight test org. working on all models up thru the 777. This is not the same company that built all those wonderful airplanes.

  59. Jerry1t June 24, 2009 at 12:18 am #

    It will be very helpful if you can cut through many of the alllegations made in this comment section with the substance of the announcement today and clarify if we have the major problem that is being suggested by readers with the verities of the Boeing announcement.

    The 787 Team made it sound like there would be a simple solution to the problem but it would take time to arrive at that solution.

    Readers have raised many questions from depth of issue, to testing to production applications.

    Your input would be very constructive

  60. Andrew June 24, 2009 at 12:38 am #

    The ideal solution would probably be a new wingbox design.
    Weight issues and time may preclude this, but in my opinion a new design will have to be done for the 789.
    I guess a band-aid solution will emerge for the 788.

  61. Giom June 24, 2009 at 2:23 am #

    Shure a lot of us are very dissapointed at this, but its just staggering to see the lashing out at Boeing over this. If things go right, no one complains. If there are snags, the company is going down.

    Lets keep in mind that this is brand new terretory for an airframe builder. Airbus has the advangage of learning from Boeing every step of the way. And they do!

    This too, will pass, and when the Dreamliner finally takes off, this will be in the distant past.

  62. Darth Vader June 24, 2009 at 3:31 am #

    Once again, the entire aerospace industry is reminded of the value of prototypes. Forget about detailed designing of irrelevancies. For a composite winged aircraft, get a basic 1st frame built (that is never even going forward for certification) to accumulate knowledge… with the tooling for the production run not finalised. Forget about fancy fuel systems, or avionics, or interiors or anything like that.

    Boeing screwed the V-22… composite wing.

    Airbus screwed the A400M… composite wing.

    Boeing screwed the 787… composite wing.

    I’ll put down money now, both Airbus and Bombardier are going to do the same with the A350 and CSeries respectively.

    All this bull about being able to make aircraft quicker due to CAD/CAE is just that… bull… and I work in the aerospace CAE environment.

    Composites are notoriously inconsistent, and thus hard to accurately simulate with FE methods. Until some fundamental changes are made to materials and manufacturing methods, that will remain the case – with the airframers suffering for ignorant managers promising the earth while not actually grasping the scale of the task in front of them.

  63. suland June 24, 2009 at 3:37 am #

    Listen, guys. This airplane is the newest thing. I don’t care how long more it will take it to fly, but in the end of the day – BOEING will give away the technology, which will bring the airtravel to new levels. If we can talk about revolution – it happens now and here. Wait for this bird to fly and you will remember these “bad” days as just obstacles to any event, which brings forward greatest things in our life – achievement. I am sure, general managers and engineers of BOEING are disappointed and they might be not happy about what they have started about 7 years ago, but they are confident – they will make this BIRD to fly and then they will deserve the standing ovation from followers all over the world. The one who really tries – gets, that’s for sure. Isn’t it?

  64. Steve June 24, 2009 at 4:28 am #

    Airbus better hope that the 787 doesn’t fail, because airlines might not want to buy any composite airliner (including the A350) if the 787 has a major structural failure during flight testing. So obviously this is a problem for both companies.

  65. JayPee June 24, 2009 at 4:39 am #

    Air Show Fan: Buckling is a failure mode. If something is designed to buckle, it is designed to break. Pure and simple. I cannot think of any case where someone would design something to buckle. On the other hand, “bending” does not mean failure but can lead to failure if it goes too far. Maybe that is what you are thinking of?

    The wingbox was redesigned a long time ago. One does not wait until fist flight to redesign something that has been revealed to the public a year in the past. Not even this new Boeing we are now dealing with.

    To be clear, this is not the wingbox they are talking about now. They are now talking about the connection of the wing to the wingbox. They have tried to obfuscate and mislead and not really come out with the whole story but it is there in black and white (all right, you have to listen to them). This problem has to do with the wings staying connnected to the airplane. 18 or 36 joints (it was not 100% clear if they meant 18 per side or 18 overall) that need to be strengthened. A guy from King asked them directly and the “yes” that came out was illuminating, as was the double talk immediately thereafter.

    Carson quote, “Consideration was given to a temporary solution that would allow us to fly as scheduled”. Sounds to me like it was not ready to fly without some sort of repair and that this contemplated “quick” repair would only allow a limited flight envelope. Long story short, there was no way it was flying at the end of this month and had they gone for the “quick” repair, they would have had to ground it shortly thereafter to do the “proper” rework.

    Another example of Boeing double talk: At one point, Fancher was trying to explain the discovery of the problem on the static rig. He mentioned the loads on the strain gages did not meet their predicitions and on inspection of the rig, found a number of things indicative of what the strain gages were saying (but did not answer the question of whether they saw delamination!). At another point he was discussing the strain gages and started talking on “increased” loads on them and corrected himself to “inconsistent” (not that increased loads is a surprise).

    Static and flight testing are done in parallell and this is common. Yes it is but basic things like the wing to fuse joint is checked pretty well at the beginning and is a mandatory test before first flight. Show me another airplane program that had a showstopping structural change less than a week before first flight. One of them even said, if we had found this problem a couple of months ago, we wouldn’t be having this discussion today. They did find it a couple of months ago.!!!!

    I can’t wait for the sketch that they are “looking into” supplying.

    They are not being open (no they don’t have to be but then people should stop claiming that they are being open and up front) and I am sure there will be more problems.

    One last issue, I would certainly hope that they don’t take unnecessary risks on this program. That is expected. I do not understand why they are being praised for doing something that is expected of them. That said, it speaks volumes on their knowledge/skill base as well as their grasp of this program, which seems to be close to nonexistant in my opinion.

  66. Mat June 24, 2009 at 5:36 am #

    @ JayPee,
    Sorry but generally buckling is not a “failure” of the structure. When a structure buckles it is characterised by a large deflection and the buckled structure continues to take the load that caused it to buckle but any additional load is taken by the surrounding structural elements, once the high load is removed the part will return to is original shape and will be perfectly serviceable.
    Many parts on commerical aircraft are designed to buckle at ultimate load – such as the skins of the fuselage and wing or webs of wing beams.
    As with anything there are exceptions to the above such as ‘crippling’ which is a short wavelength type of buckling which does cause failure of the part.

  67. Jason June 24, 2009 at 6:45 am #

    Turns out you had it right.

  68. Airpower June 24, 2009 at 7:12 am #

    “If you were expecting the 787 to fly during Paris you’re going to be disappointed, but it will fly within the next two weeks. We forecast it would fly before the end of the second quarter 2009 and if you count the way I do that means two weeks. It will fly when it’s ready and it will be ready by the end of this month.”

    – Scott Carson, President and CEO, Boeing Commercial Aircraft. Paris Air Show, 15 June 2009

    Now, one hesitates to use the word ‘lie’ but when Mr Carson stood up and said this a week before yesterday’s news was he fibbing or just not telling the truth?

  69. JR June 24, 2009 at 8:02 am #

    Yes Houston, we have a problem…

    I am not worried about the when will if fly, but I have lost faith in Boeing ledarship!

    They knew darn well that the 787 had a problem weeks ago but said at Paris that it would fly on the June 30th…. What a pack of LIARS!

    As a share holder I vote for new “HONEST” management

  70. Lastliner June 24, 2009 at 9:09 am #

    side of airplane – guys, that is boeingspeak for “wing”.

    Carson caught anybody so much by surprise yesterday in that rush webcast, that all the media fell for his story of a minor problem.

    If it was truely just a couple of patches required to fix the plane they would already have done it – “out on the field” as Pat Shanahan put it yesterday.

  71. Wes June 24, 2009 at 9:21 am #

    Perhaps they should rename it the “Nightmare-liner”. You will now see a flood of cancellations (100 +) by the airlines and a slew of major new orders for the A-350/800. And I wouldn’t blame the airlines one little bit. Boeing has gotten this program totally wrong from the begining with the strike, the whole supply chain mess, design flaws and now 2 + years of delays.

  72. Ken June 24, 2009 at 9:47 am #

    Any comments on this assertion? How does this sit with the previously given assurances that delamination is not an issue?

  73. Sam June 24, 2009 at 10:04 am #

    So, in layman’s terms:

    The 787 isn’t strong enough. To make it stronger Boeing are putting in more pieces of metal in te weak areas.

    The 787 is already overweight. Metal is heavy. More metal= heavier plane.

    The trent 1000s are underperforming.

    This all makes the 787 look like an exensive, slightly wider, unecessarily complex 767. I’m beginning to think Leahy was right when he said the 787 was a reaction to the A330…

    This was an expensive experiment for Boeing, and I think they’re going to feel it. Good luck Airbus/A350XWB, make the same mistakes and we’ll have not one but two 21st century MD-11s on our hands.

  74. Sam June 24, 2009 at 10:05 am #

    So, in layman’s terms:

    The 787 isn’t strong enough. To make it stronger Boeing are putting in more pieces of metal in the weak areas.

    The 787 is already overweight. Metal is heavy. More metal= heavier plane.

    The trent 1000s are underperforming.

    This all makes the 787 look like an exensive, slightly wider, unecessarily complex 767. I’m beginning to think Leahy was right when he said the 787 was a reaction to the A330…

    This was an expensive experiment for Boeing, and I think they’re going to feel it. Good luck Airbus/A350XWB, make the same mistakes and we’ll have not one but two 21st century MD-11s on our hands.

  75. Jerry1t June 24, 2009 at 10:46 am #

    As difficult as it may seem, if we take the statements by Scott Fancher to be true, the problem is limited to these specific areas.

    Many comments on this Board do not accept that, undrstandably, but it may well be true.

    The biggest problem with lack of clarity and understanding is that every detractor and home engineer has some opinion which is often just disguised enmity.

    There are only a few voices out there that speak with a grasp of the real issues and Jon is one. It would be very helpful if the real scope of this issue was better understood so we do not have to contemplate some of the wild speculations and pseuo insights that flood the web.

    We are currently flying in the dark and some intelligent and balanced light on the issue would be welcomed

  76. lynn June 24, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

    can i have your model jon? =P

  77. AirShowFan June 24, 2009 at 12:59 pm #

    I find it amusing (but also a little frustrating) how people love to write “delamination”. It’s an easy way for some one who knows very little about composite structure to sound like they have a unique insight about a potentially serious problem. “Oooh, it could be causing delamination!”. Sounds scary! But even if Boeing’s models about composite materials aren’t perfect (and what model is?), their job is to know enough about the onset of delamination to stay clear of it.

    You may think it is scary that these models still need to be sharpened, but that’s what testing is for! Yes, until the end of testing, it is remotely possible that the 787′s structure is inadequate in some way. No one denies this. The purpose of testing is to chase that remote possibility and make sure it is no longer there by the time passengers start buying tickets. The same is true of any new aircraft. It is designed “to the best of Boeing’s knowledge”, and the best of Boeing’s knowledge is not as good before testing as it is after testing.

    Of course Boeing will run into problems and surprises when building a composite aircraft. These are not signs of bad management or incompetence or of an unsafe aircraft, they’re just signs of figuring out a new technology. (Bad management would have been choosing band-aid solutions over permanent mods).

    And JayPee: as Mat pointed out, buckling is not necessarily a failure mode. A quick Google about “post-buckling” should set you straight. For example, see the first sentence of the abstract of this paper:

  78. AirShowFan June 24, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    And on a lighter note;

  79. uwe June 24, 2009 at 3:01 pm #

    At AirShowFan on June 24, 2009 1:04 PM

    And like the original it is the most sexy
    stationary airplane ( model ).

    Looks like it is low risk to place a bet
    on santa flying first this year.


  80. JR June 24, 2009 at 6:02 pm #

    Air Show Fan

    Great find, I am laughing my ass off! Great Idea, at least it stands a chance of flying sometime soon.

    Mabe some model builder will take on the challenge to to build and fly a model 787 before big brother Boeing. It will be a You-Tube hit!

  81. Ken Panting June 24, 2009 at 6:33 pm #

    I agree with Sam’s earlier comments, Airbus uses, along with Boeing carbon fibre in relatively non load bearing locations. F1 cars use carbon fibre as well, have you seen how it shatters, not much flex about it. The A380 uses Glare which has flexibility and remember the A380 delays came after the first flight generally and were due to wiring incompatbilty, not probable structual failure. Do Boeing have a problem that the test pilots will not fly it because they fear for their life if the basic structure is failing, ANA must wish their livery was not on ZA002. Two years late before first flight and a 7-8 month flight test before certification does not add up, big problems,maybe 4 years late in the end. Airbus take note, sorry i expect they already know the problems. Boeing have, indirectly, given so much info to Airbus, they can sell the A350 cheaper. And Sam, I hope that crosswinds dont effect the 787 like the MD11 on landing, I always vowed never to fly in DC10 or MD11 and I am still alive!

  82. whitehatter June 25, 2009 at 5:50 am #

    Better now than later.

    If Boeing had flown it and then had to report that cracks or structural faults had occurred in the prototype, that would have been a game losing situation. The business and tabloid press would have picked up on this and fatal damage done to the aircraft’s public image.

  83. hampshire June 25, 2009 at 7:02 am #

    extremely embarrassing for Boeing

  84. veedee June 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm #

    Man isn’t perfect and neither will his complex machines be perfect. I wonder whether Boeing rushed into something that has turned out to be more than they can handle. Should they have just stuck with aluminium? I don’t know. I don’t want to throw words at them because they have been successfully building and putting thousands of jet aircraft in the sky. I guess they just have to put all their effort into this one to make it work just like aluminium has worked for them. If they realize that they’ve made a big mistake, then all they have to do is to admit it. It’s human to do so.

  85. veedee June 25, 2009 at 3:05 pm #

    Man isn’t perfect and neither are his complex machines. If Boeing has made a mistake, then all they have to do is to admit it. It’s human to do so. Since they’ve said that corrections have to be made to the structure, then I believe they’re doing the right thing. Even though there will be a delay, it goes to show that one doesn’t always get it right on the first try. Thomas Edison didn’t. Should Boeing have stuck to aluminium instead? I don’t know. I do know that it has worked for them:hence the thousands of jet aircraft they’ve successfully built up to this day. Like everyone else I can only wait to see what happens next.

  86. FF June 25, 2009 at 4:09 pm #

    BREAKING: Boeing postpones 787 first flight

    Sums it up really.

  87. WhiteKnight June 26, 2009 at 8:26 pm #

    It would not instill much public confidence, if the wing skins started delaminating on its first flight. CFRP structures have a more finite life in military aircraft, thus certification is not the same as for a civil airframe. Military aircraft using such structures also have the advantage of an ejection seat!

  88. bob June 27, 2009 at 2:11 am #

    I recall the early 747s wingbox (aluminium) cracking after rollout in the 1969 – 1970 time period.
    A copy of Aviation Week might give details of the cause and fix.

  89. John June 27, 2009 at 6:50 am #

    The management have to be held responsible for a large part of this disaster. Sack the board and bring back Mallally the old 777 team to sort this out.

  90. Gorbi June 30, 2009 at 2:09 am #

    Will somone please explain why Carson still has a job at Boeing????

    Need I say MORE???

  91. howard June 30, 2009 at 12:05 pm #

    by this time, you would think ( at least i do )
    that the entire structure and all the systems of the new airplane would be modeled in software and this type of problem would have been detected and fixed WAY BEFORE this time.

  92. ajswtlk July 1, 2009 at 6:09 am #

    It’s time to get more real, since Jon can put pictures.

    Wind-body issues are difficult to everyone but the managers who don’t know much and those who get carried along blissfully unaware of what is going on.

    Yes, Boeing engineers solve these types of problems; usually the managers get credit. The mismatch of viewpoints is obvious as who would farm out such crucial technology.

    Methinks that the experience with the 777 and 737 mods warped management’s brain. They would told that they are off the wall (perfect storm) on this.

    Those metal programs were nicely done since they carried on a thread. 787 cut the threads (pun) along a multitude of axes (very high number).

    It’ll be interesting indeed to see how this resolves.

  93. SomeoneInToulouse July 3, 2009 at 5:59 am #


    It’s exactly your kind of thinking which is causing these kinds of problems.

    Composites are still a LOOOOOOOOOONG way from being modelled accurately. Management have been convinced by some people that everything can be designed in the computer, manufactured flawlessly and then flown first time. Airlines have been convinced (by Boeing) that composites will do everything better than aluminium and never need maintenance (I personally believe everyone’s going to get a BIG shock a few years into service life).

    The truth is that we are nowhere near being able to accurately model the behaviour of composite fuselage components, nor are the manufacturing methods anywhere near mature, nor are the fatigue and damage-tolerance properties fully understood, nor can we easily inspect and identify all such damage, nor is repair of such damage likely to be as simple as many believe.

    I’m wishing Boeing all the best – but I also wish they’d stop spreading and believing their own hype on this project!

  94. james July 4, 2009 at 11:55 am #

    This was all known back in November last year when a blogger on the Seattlepi website said about delamination. All you guys did on here is discredit it, shows what you know and maybe you should take these things a little more seriousl.
    It’s no surprise this has happened, the calibre of engineers at Boeing is not good, they have no experience left.

  95. Vladimir August 4, 2009 at 9:01 am #

    Listen to the guy from Toulouse. He is the closest to the root of the problem.
    Composites are not so homogenous as metals and therefore their behavior under stress in different directions can not be so accurately predicted.
    This has to do with honesty in designing.
    With metal structures you operate with factual velues. With composites some values are assumed.
    Delamination is next to destruction.
    We have a joke about wings breaking off;
    After three unsuccessful flights where the wings broke off the engineers finally allowed a simple mechanic to speak.
    He said:” Make a row of holes along the attachment point. My toilet paper never tears where the holes are.”

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