Boeing failed to meet its 2011 delivery guidance of 15 to 20 747-8s and 787s
, delivering just 12 of its newly certified aircraft, including nine 747-8 freighters and three of the long-range majority-composite twins to launch customer All Nippon Airways.
Beyond its missed forecast, the company faces a larger challenge of a gap in 787 deliveries after the preliminary batch of aircraft are delivered to ANA, Japan Airlines and Air India, while the company works to match its factory production rate with its delivery rate as it manages post-certification re-work.
ANA's third 787, equipped with the recently-certified
Package B Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines and long-range 158-seat configuration, was contractually delivered to the carrier on December 30 and is expected to depart Paine Field in Everett for Japan as early as today, say company sources.
The aircraft was to have delivered in November, delaying the start of ANA's service from Tokyo-Haneda to Beijing from December to January, part of a block of seven that the carrier expected before the close of 2011.
Airplanes 41 and nine, both for ANA, were due for delivery in 2011 as well and will both be contractually delivered to the carrier in the first half of January. Both received US Federal Aviation Administration airworthiness certificates just before the close of the year, say company sources.
Boeing will make official its 2011 delivery figures Thursday.
Still outstanding is the regulatory approval of the General Electric GEnx-1B-powered 787, requiring Airplane 35 for Air India to serve as a production article to fly functionality and reliability (F&R) validations, now expected to make it maiden flight in the middle of the month. GE certification was to have been completed by year's-end
, clearing the way for deliveries to the Indian flag carrier and Japan Airlines, which begins its first service from Tokyo-Narita to Boston in April.
JAL's first 787, Airplane 23, which completed change incorporation in San Antonio, Texas, is slated to be delivered in mid-February, said the carrier in December. The slip from the end of 2012 further confuses its status as GEnx-1B launch customer despite Air India's claims its first delivery would be ahead of JAL's.
An Economic Times of India report
indicated Air India expected its first 787 later in January, a date that seems unlikely to be met with the outstanding certification requirements for the type. The carrier says it expects seven 787s to be delivered by June, all of which will undergo sale and leaseback transactions as part of Air India's financial restructuring. At least one of those seven
, Airplane 46, will be delivered from Boeing's Charleston, South Carolina final assembly line.
According to its Z24 schedule, formalized in November, Boeing plans to deliver 45 787s to customers in 2012, or approximately three to four each month, down from the 61 it had planned in Z23. Boeing maintains its goal of meeting a rate of 10 aircraft per month by the end of 2013.
While, Boeing has focused its resources on preparing its early ANA, Air India and JAL aircraft, some 10 787s, including the late 2011 planned deliveries, the company continues to run its final assembly operations at 2.5 aircraft per month, building aircraft that will require re-work, albeit less, to prepare for delivery.
With travelled work still flowing to final assembly in Everett, the company slows its own learning curve by continuing to flow out-of-sequence assembly tasks that would otherwise be done by its suppliers or facilities in Charleston, increasing the difficulty of learning a consistent delivery of a completed statement or work, say industry observers.
Further, the concern, say several directly familiar with the manufacturing operations, is as much the near-term pacing of aircraft as it is the aircraft parked in long-term storage and shuffled around the Everett campus that have not yet gone through significant change incorporation and rework, creating an "air pocket" in deliveries after the initial batch is delivered as resources are brought to bear on the less-complete aircraft.
Boeing aims to build a 787 that will not require any re-work by Airplane 63, say those familiar with the plan, delivering the factory complete jetliner directly to its pre-flight preparations for production and customer evaluations.
The company has received parts for 787s up to Airplane 56.
If Boeing meets its goal of making Airplane 63 its no-rework aircraft - a goal that at one point was to be met by the 16th and 34th 787s built - fully 59 aircraft will have required post-assembly modifications, including three of the six flight test aircraft.