787 variants delayed to at least 2012

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Boeing has abandoned its plan to field two new versions of the 787 in 2010, as well as perhaps a third in 2013.

The 787-8 will be delivered in the third quarter 2009 under the latest revised schedule, but the stretched 787-9 is postponed to at least 2012, and the short-haul 787-3 will follow but has no firm delivery date.

 
 © Boeing

The 787-9 has picked up 208 orders, including 50 from Qantas, and the 787-3 has 43 orders.

The proposed 787-10, a proposed replacement for the 777-200, is no longer mentioned in public plans for the programme.

Pat Shanahan, Boeing's 787 vice-president and general manager, attributed the schedule changes for the variants to keeping the baseline 787-8 on track for delivery.

"That's really a timing call on supporting the number of deliveries we're trying to get out, with [the need to develop] the -9 and the -3," he told analysts and reporters on 9 April.

At that point, Shanahan's comment on the teleconference call was abruptly stopped. After a brief pause, Scott Carson, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and chief executive, spoke.

"The biggest thing we're going to get out of the -9 is the block-point change to make weight improvements in the fleet," Carson added. "Putting that airplane before the -3 gives us the opportunity to take advantage of the weight improvements we'll make in the -9 in the -3 and the -8, and that's critical to us."

The 787-3 is apparently facing a weight crisis, which led to the short-haul airframe's resequencing as the second variant.

"The important thing to us is to understand the market for the airplane and to be able to produce an airplane that meets the commitments we made to our customers," Carson says. "We need the weight improvements to do that and that's part of the reason for resequencing the two airplanes."

The block-point improvements for the 787-9 refer to undisclosed weight-saving gains that can be realised during the construction of the aircraft.

Boeing planned to implement the block-point improvements with the 787-9 composite structure that will yield a 5% efficiency gain.