Boeing has announced that it has postponed the maiden flight of the 787 after deciding to reinforce an area within the side-of-body section of the first Dreamliner.
The airframer says that the need was identified during the recent regularly scheduled tests on the full-scale static test airframe. It adds that "preliminary analysis indicated that flight test could proceed this month as planned. However, after further testing and consideration of possible modified flight-test plans, the decision was made late last week that first flight should instead be postponed until productive flight testing could occur."
Boeing says the 787 first flight - which was due to take place before the end of June - will be rescheduled along with the first delivery (due in quarter one 2010) following the final determination of the required modification and testing plan.
"It will be several weeks before the new schedule is available," says the airframer. "The 787 team will continue with other aspects of testing on Airplane No 1, including final gauntlet testing and low-speed taxiing. Work will also continue on the other five flight-test aircraft and the subsequent aircraft in the production system."
Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief executive Scott Carson says a team of experts has already identified several potential solutions. "Consideration was given to a temporary solution that would allow us to fly as scheduled, but we ultimately concluded that the right thing was to develop, design, test and incorporate a permanent modification to the localised area requiring reinforcement," he says.
"Structural modifications like these are not uncommon in the development of new airplanes, and this is not an issue related to our choice of materials or the assembly and installation work of our team," he adds.
A conference call involving Carson, Pat Shanahan, vice-president and general manager of airplane programmes, and Scott Fancher, vice-president and general manager of the 787 programme, to discuss the issues today at 10:00 EDT. A webcast of that call will be accessible at www.boeing.com.