Boeing reviewing 787 delivery schedule as post-certification rework looms

Boeing is once again examining its 787 delivery schedule as it seeks to address the mountain of post-certification rework required to turn partially completed airframes into deliverable passenger aircraft, confirm multiple program sources.

Staff from around Boeing and its supply chain tell FlightBlogger that driving the current schedule review is the formulation of a plan on how to tackle the expansive amount of work required to bring each airframe up to a certified production standard.

Today, Boeing is aiming to hand over its first 787 to Japan’s All Nippon Airways in February, just shy of three years since the original May 2008 delivery, though a verdict on the necessary rework is expected in the coming weeks and could impact initial deliveries anywhere from weeks to several months depending on the customer.

“Flight testing is a dynamic process and we constantly review and manage risks and opportunities to the program schedule. Our plan remains first delivery of the Boeing 787 mid-first-quarter 2011,” says the airframer.

One program engineer says that in order to meet the mid-February delivery target for ANA all of the design changes for Airplane Seven (JA801A), the first production 787, had to be released by engineering by the close of October, however the source adds “there are some design changes that are not released yet but must be implemented to have the airplane certified” ahead of first delivery.

Program and industry sources suggested Airplane Seven’s delivery could be made to ANA on time in February, but how long after it entered revenue service pending additional changes, and how long after that more deliveries followed, remained an open question.

Boeing has remained reluctant to provide guidance on how many 787s it expects to hand over to carriers in 2011, though Jim McNerney, the company’s CEO, identified post certification rework a chief priority for the program.

“We are intensely focused on managing the change incorporation process on airplanes already built or in flow,” McNerney said in the company’s third quarter earnings, which maintained the February first delivery target. “The early delivery schedule is comprised of a mix of airplanes coming off the production line and airplanes completing the change incorporation process.”

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Program sources emphasize none of the issues on their own equal the magnitude ofBoeing’s June 2009 side-of-body announcement which single-handedlycrippled the program for six months, but all told add up atime-consuming and arduous process to prepare each aircraft fordelivery. The aircraft’s highly integrated systems, says one industrysource, means “you can’t touch one thing in isolation.”

Post-certificationrework is meant to pool everything Boeing learned about the 787 duringflight test and feed the required changes back into aircraft’sstructure and systems before they are deemed ready for delivery. Partof the review includes determining how much post-certification reworkcan and cannot be done concurrently with other modifications.

Boeinghas been building production 787s since June 2009 when it beganassembling Airplane Seven, the first of its non-flight test airframes.To date, Boeing has built 22 production aircraft that are scatteredaround the company’s Everett, Washington final assembly and flightlines, many of which are buttoned up for extended storage, withoutengines, doors, windshields and control surfaces.

The earliestplanned deliveries, Airplane Seven, Eight and Nine are positionedinside the factory or at rented hangar space at Aviation TechnicalServices on the south side of Paine Field. Airplanes Eight and Nineboth have Package A Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines and are slated tojoin flight test before the close of the year for extended twin engineoperations (ETOPS) testing, however Airplane Seven, is currentlyswarmed with engineers and machinists aiming to have the aircraft inANA’s hands in February.

For the assembled production aircraftfor customers ANA, Japan Airlines, Royal Air Maroc, LAN and Air India that cover Everett, a myriad amount of rework from nose-to-tail on the787 is expected to get underway following the 787′s certification earlynext year.

Issues ranging from a flight deck window poppingsound discovered during flight test, addressing cabin condensationissues, reworking passenger doors, resolving workmanship issues on theaircraft’s horizontal stabilizer and incorporating changes to the Trent1000 engine, are among the issues that add up to slide the deliveries to the 787′s earliestcustomers well into 2011 or potentially even 2012.

Anotherfactory engineer says: “If final assembly were the only thing that hadto be done in Everett, they would crank those airplanes through thefactory in no time. Unfortunately, the bulk of the activity on the lineappears to be rework of supplier-sourced assemblies.”

Productionof new airframes is expected to continue through the end of flighttesting once deliveries from suppliers are resumed as early as thisweek, while the challenge remains to reach a point of equilibrium whererework is no longer the primary task in Everett.

Further, addsthe engineer, “The line is littered with bins that are filled withparts removed to gain access to areas that need to be reworked. Itwould be impossible to assess how much of the work going on out thereis out of sequence.”

Boeing has always anticipated a process ofchange incorporation following flight test as it has with all itsprevious programs. The airframer plans to use its facility at Port SanAntonio at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas to perform some of thechange incorporation once aircraft are in a flyable condition to makethe trip south.

53 Responses to Boeing reviewing 787 delivery schedule as post-certification rework looms

  1. johnny stick November 1, 2010 at 11:34 pm #

    So is it cheaper to hold final assembly until certification, or to build, build, build then rework, rework, rework? Sounds like the rework back log will be pretty extensive.

  2. Sam November 2, 2010 at 2:16 am #

    Airbus can’t deliver, now Boeing can’t deliver.. If I ran an airline I’d be raving mad to have either’s planes on order. Most boring duopoly ever, this industry needs competition, otherwise complacency leads to this happening. THAT’S why airlines should invest in the new manufacturers. Boeing and Airbus? Bah, I want to hear more about Embraer and Bombardier!

  3. DX7 November 2, 2010 at 2:35 am #

    I thought Airbus was delivering, albeit slower than expected

    As for the possible delays, yawn…..what is new?

  4. Capricorn November 2, 2010 at 3:03 am #

    Mmmm… was this the company with lots of comments on A380 delays?

  5. DX7 November 2, 2010 at 3:17 am #

    [i]Airplane Seven, is currently swarmed with engineers and machinists aiming to have the aircraft in ANA’s hands in February[/i]

    It seems they want to do what Airbus did with the 380; throw resources at airplane 7, achieve EIS, then gradually get the other planes ready.

    What happened to the plan to have the first 20 planes re-worked in San Antonio?

  6. CM November 2, 2010 at 3:31 am #


    I’m not aware of a single public Boeing comment on the A380 delays. Can you direct me to any?

  7. Sam November 2, 2010 at 3:54 am #

    Ha! I hope your joking! Both Randys, countless project managers for all of boeings aircraft not to mention everyone at the top! Look for yourself!

  8. CM November 2, 2010 at 4:37 am #

    I just took a look and still believe you’re misinformed.

    I remember Boeing fanboys foaming at the mouth and wondering why Baseler didn’t pull a Leahy and go for the jugular during the A380 delays. I just searched Randy’s blog for “A380″ and found mostly congratulatory statements.

    The closest I found to a comment on the A380 delay was this from 11-Mar 2005:

    “I believe these airplanes represent two different views of the future of air travel. The 777-200LR gets you where you’re going, without long waits. The A380 is all about waiting. Waiting to board, waiting to connect, waiting to get your luggage, waiting to get to your destination.

    Just something to think about while we wait for the A380 to take to the air.”

    The closest I found to bashing was this:

    “And in the days leading up to it, I have been asked by more than a dozen reporters on our reaction to the new airplane. Here is what I’ve told them. Without question the A380 is a great engineering and industrial achievement. We congratulate Airbus on reaching this significant milestone. The people who designed it and put it together should be proud.

    But that isn’t all I have said. Along with the A380 being an engineering marvel it also represents a very large misjudgment about how most passengers want to travel and how most airlines operate.”

    I believe the burden is on yourself and Capricorn to back up your accusations. If “both Randys, countless project managers from all Boeing programs, plus everyone at the top” made comments on the A380 delays, it should be an easy matter for you to prove it.

  9. Uwe November 2, 2010 at 4:59 am #

    Aside from that there was quite a bit of Astro Turfing going on.
    My tentative guess is that Boeing had to pounce and expose
    Airbus rather small problems as a major fall to make the
    then imminent splash that was to be the Potemkin Rollout and forever looming First Flight for the flightless bird appear small in comparison.
    This worked quite well on home turf.
    Going by some posters a judicious minority seems to be still sitting back relaxed and looking downhill all around Boeing.

  10. CBL November 2, 2010 at 6:00 am #

    I do not get why Boeing, who was so good at leaning the 737 and 777 lines completely messed up with the 787!

    The rule one in lean is to stop work when there is a problem so you do not build up on muda!

    They keep crunching partially build airframes that will need extensive rework and will have a lesser valuer!

    Something is really worrying here!

  11. Uwe November 2, 2010 at 6:23 am #

    787 is not lean manufacture.

    787 was to be click 4 parts together, add some bells and whistles and get stinking rich selling the result.

    Is this actually proof that each and every delay came completely unexpected for management?

  12. Bill November 2, 2010 at 7:20 am #

    Jon, you might want to be careful with phrases like “February first delivery target” (paragraph 8). That could be interpreted as the delivery target is February first, instead of first delivery is targeted to occur within the month of February.

  13. BA Investor November 2, 2010 at 7:42 am #


    We all know that there are 23 “assembled” planes sitting on the tarmac waiting for certification and necessary rework before delivery.

    This is the first piece you have done to address that situation. Everyone acknowledges that it would have been better and more efficient if these were completed but there is additional work necessary. The important questions are the scope of the work and the amount of time and resources necessary to bring these plane to delivery status. Additionally, there is the question of how Boeing is going to handle the expeditious completion of this work. There was once talk that all of the rework assembled planes would be in San Antonio.

    You are correct in pointing out the issues that have to be dealt with but my understanding was that only 25 planes would be delivered in year one. Until there is a program in place and a better understanding of what the schedule is, this is another unknown that will have to be worked through and it may well be that it will be better organized and effected that this article insinuates

  14. anonymouse November 2, 2010 at 8:02 am #

    Where is KC-Baffoon to cry us a river?

  15. Uwe November 2, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    Keep quiet.
    He hasn’t found this sane yet
    which is a good thing (TM)

  16. Philip Carter November 2, 2010 at 8:36 am #

    Oh my, oh my… spare a thought for the engineers working on this program.

    Popping sounds from the flight deck windows? Rework passenger doors? Condensation problems?

    Higher cabin humidity was trumpeted as a great 787 feature; perhaps the only way to cure the condensation is to reduce the humidity? With the rapid pressure changes going on in an aircraft one might have seen this coming…

    The stabilizer issue is turning into a fiasco. Is one to understand that aircraft that have already been “fixed” have to be “fixed” again?

    Then consider that 22 aircraft have already been built. No fun.

    And what else is not being talked about? It could be another year before ANA gets its first airplane.

  17. Curious November 2, 2010 at 8:55 am #

    There are three and one half months, Nov., Dec. January and mid February remaining before the mid first quarter 0f 2011 arrives with the promise of the first delivery to ANA.

    Does anyone know the promised delivery schedule of planes 2-22 ?

    Is three and a half months sufficient time to start clearing up the backlog of rework that is necessary to prepare for deliveries. How much time is needed to bring each plane up to standard?

    These are the specific questions that have to be explored or scoped out before any conclusions can be drawn.

    It will only be with factual information that these issues can be better understood. Anything short of that is speculation.

  18. Jonathan Thornburg November 2, 2010 at 10:14 am #

    I wonder if the 787 will pass the A380 in deliveries in 2011?
    In airframes in revenue passenger service? In revenue passenger miles/kilometers?

  19. Uwe November 2, 2010 at 11:15 am #

    That could be developed into quite an entertaining number game, right?

  20. WingBender November 2, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    This news can only bode ill for the price of BA Investor’s Boeing shares.

  21. CBL November 2, 2010 at 12:27 pm #

    The B787 was to design to be lean from day one:

    Boeing prepared for its new life as a large-scale integrator before its suppliers or logistical systems were established and up to speed.

    The lean manufacturing characteristics that are a hallmark of the 787 were placed at the beginning of the production system rather than incorporated as the product achieved maturity. In contrast, Boeing transformed its 777 and 737 manufacturing from static assembly lines to moving lines years later only after the existing processes were smoothly executed. The 787 line was set up for ideal conditions, where structures would arrive fully stuffed and ready for mating.

    Here is the reference;

    see also

  22. engman November 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm #

    The Trent 1000 engines seem to be a major problem but it seems that many folk are hush hush about this.

  23. Bluesky November 2, 2010 at 12:47 pm #

    Boeing should have gone for one source engine supplier for the powerplants like it did with the 777 and GE. The Trent 1000 engine is dragging this 787 program down. GEnx is the better engine and also the preferred one by airlines.

  24. Observer November 2, 2010 at 1:07 pm #

    I remember lots of managers at Boeing warning Boeing employees not to comment on the A380 delays. Those with experience on all-new aircraft programs explained that delays might be possible at any time. A kind of “there, but for the Grace of God, go I”, sort of approach. At the time the delays with the 787 weren’t known or really anticipated, but they didn’t want those comments coming back to haunt them later.

  25. iamlucky13 November 2, 2010 at 1:31 pm #

    No one has any information about the Trent 1000 test failure being a major issue.

    So either it isn’t a major issue, or Boeing and Rolls Royce are doing a really good job of keeping it hush. In the meantime, they claim to have a good grip on that issue.

    Unless and until someone gets more info, there’s nothing we can conclude.

  26. mike November 2, 2010 at 2:37 pm #

    A T1000 engine surge at idle is bad as one engine on the 787 experienced.

  27. Guru Josh November 2, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    Well, both engines have major issues. Otherwise GE and RR would not have embarked on respective redesign efforts that take until the end of 2012 to get the engines back on spec. Compared to the original certification date of April 2008, that’s 4 months shy of being 5 years late on delivering on promises.

  28. Dopydem November 2, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    A380 is not lean manufacture but the delivery schedule so far would make you think that it is..

    The A380 was a standard design/build aircraft constructed from common aircraft materials, to be a click of parts together, add some bells and whistles and get stinking rich selling the result. Who would have guessed that production control couldn’t keep track of configurations or that a meter in France was different than a meter in Germany?
    Is this actually proof that each and every A380 delay came completely unexpected for management?

    It must be wonderful to be a Airbus smurf and live in LA LA land.

  29. Paulo M (Johannesburg, RSA) November 2, 2010 at 3:48 pm #

    Bombardier’s Boehm doesn’t seem to have major issues with Alenia for its CSeries:

    Its pretty clear that the lesson for Boeing from its 787 experience would be more vigilant supplier oversight is essential. Its somewhat disappointing. But it is also an enormous undertaking, both in terms of engineering, and industrial policy.

  30. CBL November 2, 2010 at 4:19 pm #

    I think that you are misinformed on this:

    ‘Boeing prepared for its new life as a large-scale integrator before its suppliers or logistical systems were established and up to speed.
    The lean manufacturing characteristics that are a hallmark of the 787 were placed at the beginning of the production system rather than incorporated as the product achieved maturity. In contrast, Boeing transformed its 777 and 737 manufacturing from static assembly lines to moving lines years later only after the existing processes were smoothly executed. The 787 line was set up for ideal conditions, where structures would arrive fully stuffed and ready for mating.’

    full article

  31. Karl November 2, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    Uhmmm, can anyone say “sabotage” from an European supplier?

    Clearly that the building process was not looked at the way it was supposed to by Boeing.

  32. Justanotherairplane November 2, 2010 at 6:31 pm #

    Interesting different perspective would be that engine manufacturers have a continuos improvement strategy to their product that lasts well beyond EIS. Main reason for this being the fast pace of technilogy development and the strong business case for introducing new technology accross a fleet at the earliest chance. It is more accurate to say they have used the oppertunity of the aircraft delay to bring forward better variants of the product at or around EIS.
    Ultimatly I don’t think either ge or rr will let down the programme, they’re big boys who’ve demonstrated time after time they can deliver a new product to market.

  33. Anonymous November 2, 2010 at 6:49 pm #

    There really is nothing major to report. The engine will not be perfect at EIS, but I’m not sure that was ever anyone’s expectation. There have been some challenges during flight test, but you have to remember that some of the flight test engines were built 4 years ago. The EIS STD of engine has been on line 3 now for nearly 2 months with 100% dispatch reliability with little deviation from how ANA will operate the engines. RR should not be over confident, but there are no major engineering risks to EIS.

  34. Zowie November 2, 2010 at 9:35 pm #

    So what has Pat Shanahan fixed?

  35. Guru Josh November 3, 2010 at 2:49 am #

    “It is more accurate to say they have used the oppertunity of the aircraft delay to bring forward better variants of the product at or around EIS.”

    Yeah, alright. And that is courtesy of the the engine manufacturer’s own wallet? Do you have an idea on the cost incurred e.g. by modifying the GEnx fan, LPC, HPC, combustors, HPT, LPT and what have you (anything left?).

    It is more correct to say that both engines were found to be off spec by around 5% in specific fuel consumption.

  36. Uwe November 3, 2010 at 3:50 am #

    Hmm, just because Boeing calls it lean does not mean
    that this is actually the case.
    Boeing tried to step back into an integrator position.
    Ordering plug and play integratable units and clicking them
    together is not really lean production.
    this would have had to be implemented by the risksharing partners ( or not , Boeing did not care at all what happend at those sites. this is not an error in delegation but in having no idea about neccessary delegation and building a net of trust, another thing that can _not_ just be written into a contract )

  37. Uwe November 3, 2010 at 4:07 am #


    Funny I have a hunch that the A400 engine delays could be due to industrial/political sabotage.
    The spanish project lead, close to Aznar, a coalition of the willing Bush crony, fended off EADS/core Airbus project controlling for quite some time hiding the progress issues. The FADEC software complete rewrite was caused by a BAE, itself now majorly interested in US defence contracts, (+Hispano Suiza) subsidiary using unqualified developement tools. The basic “hardware” engine seems to have been ready for quite some time.

    In contrast I see Dreamliner delays as rather completely
    selfinflicted (by Boeing) even if some of the relevant issues surface at partners.
    IMHO taking the -9 tail from Alenia will be motivated by IP consideration, though you can find rather extensive hybrid boundary flow research from Airbus from quite a while back.
    But there is this little hitch in the US mindset that makes them think that inventions and innovations are only made at home, while others have to steal them ;-)

  38. Aero Ninja November 3, 2010 at 4:35 am #

    “Ultimatly I don’t think either ge or rr will let down the programme, they’re big boys who’ve demonstrated time after time they can deliver a new product to market.”

    Like Boeing and Airbus used to be able to?

  39. John in CA November 3, 2010 at 6:49 am #

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t Airbus more or less use the PNP approach? Wings built in Wales, fuselages sections in Germany, Spain, & Italy? And everything gets trucked to France where it is bolted together along with a wiring loom that is too short?

    We can all beat up on both Boeing and Airbus on their manuf methods…but you can’t improve the process unless you try something new. It’s not like the days of WWII where guys were bending fuselage panels next to the airplane being built…..

    Bleeding edge technology will result in a small amount of spilt blood….In about 10 years I suspect we will all be talking about a new set of problems and the problems of today will be historical lessons learned.

  40. RaiDog November 3, 2010 at 10:04 am #

    Boeing….”the gang that couldn’t shoot strtaight”. This group of clowns gives the teams that created the 707, 727, 737, 747, 757, 767, and 777 a bad name. This has gone from being sad to pathetic! Does anyone buy any of Boeings bull$hit

  41. Anonymous November 3, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

    Still no sign of the KC-Buffoon…

  42. Howard November 3, 2010 at 4:04 pm #

    What has Shanihan fixed? Well, his executive compensation package for one thing.

  43. just wondering November 3, 2010 at 8:00 pm #

    When I was working on the 787 program last year,one of the old timers said to me “When upper management told us that the 787 was going to be a “snap together” plane,I knew we were in trouble.” He was right.

  44. Trizian November 4, 2010 at 6:59 am #

    it seems they are throwing all their resources on the first production frame to make EIS “on time” but delay all subsequent airframes due to the amount of rework required

  45. Geraud November 5, 2010 at 9:25 am #

    Boeing should cancel the 787 program, they will never do it.

    It would be better now to focus on new 737 and 777

  46. Jose Hemanez November 10, 2010 at 3:29 pm #

    Stop the outsourcing.
    There is no need to transport a large aircraft component, which is very expensive, from Italy.

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    Just saw this. The reason they can’t back up those statements is because it never happened

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