The diversion of engineering resources to Boeing's troubled Dreamliner has forced the airframer to give up on its plan to fly the first 747-8 Freighter on 9 December and deliver an aircraft to Cargolux in the third quarter of next year.
The three-month delivery delay, to the fourth quarter of 2010, is being attributed to an accumulation of small engineering issues. One programme engineer likened the delay to "death by 1,000 cuts".
The latest delay forced Boeing to take a third quarter earning charge of $640 million owing to "re-work and disruption" and a further $360 million to cover the cargo market collapse that has forced a scaled-back ramp-up to two aircraft amonth.
With 747-8F resources constrained to feed the 787's demands, "more engineering errors escaped than what could be considered normal", he says, adding that "workers are adjusting to building a new airplane. A lot of them have been moved around...so their work lacks continuity, which leads to production errors."
Of the total number of tasks required to take a 747-8 from structural build to pre-flight activities, just over 50% had been fully completed at the time the delay was announced, according to company sources. Many of the tasks are unfinished owing to engineering changes.
Before the delay announcement, the first 747-8F (RC501) was set to leave the final assembly line for the paint hangar around 11 October.
In May, 747 vice-president and general manager Mohammad "Mo" Yahyavi declared: "I have all the resources I need now for both the freighter and the Intercontinental."
However, the June discovery that the 787's wing-to-body join needed re-engineering left 747-8I launch customer Lufthansa, whose passenger variant service entry remains unchanged, expecting a further programme delay.
Chief financial officer Stephan Gemkow said at the time: "I'm sure again the delay of the 787 will mean that they have to pull in more engineering resources, and that will have even further delays, as a consequence, for the 747-8. I would not be surprised to learn this some weeks or months in the future."