Concerns raised over expected 787 range shortfall

Washington DC
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This story is sourced from Flight International
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As Boeing presses towards a first flight in the second quarter, airline customers have begun to raise questions publicly about the 787s performance.

Aeromexico is a 787-8 customer and chief executive Andres Conesa told Flight International that the aircraft may fail to meet original performance specifications, including the ability to operate non-stop flights from Mexico City to Asia.

"The expectation was that aircraft could go all the way to Greece," says Conesa. "It has changed. Today we don't know the final conditions." The distance between Mexico City and Athens is roughly 13,000km (7,000nm).

march 09 787 line 
 © Tolga Ozbek

Early production aircraft are expected to be delivered overweight, prompting significant concern among airline customers. Boeing now advertises the range of the 787-8 as 14,150-15,170km, a reduction of roughly 560km from the 14,800-15,700km first touted.

Much of the expectations for range are purely analytical as the aircraft has yet to fly, although Boeing has instituted an aggressive weight reduction plan ahead of first flight to bring 787 performance back in line with customer expectations.

Delta Air Lines, which inherited an order for 18 787-8s from Northwest Airlines, announced that it had removed, but not cancelled, its order from delivery planning and was in negotiation with Boeing to revise those schedules. Of Delta's 18 orders, more than half would have come in the first 50 deliveries, including two of the six flight-test aircraft.

The airline cited schedules, not performance, as the reason for the change, although a source close to the airline says Delta was displeased with ramifications of weight gain on performance.