Boeing’s plastic fantastic 787 Dreamliner and its biggest customer Qantas will get another wake up call later today when even further problems in its testing and production schedules are confirmed.

The softening up process overnight has been brutal — The Wall Street Journal and Seattle Times say Boeing sources have pushed back the first flight by a prototype until June — so the truth must be awful.

A few weeks ago first flight was supposed to be the end of March. Until last September first flight was supposed to be anywhere between the end of that month and the start of December.

Qantas has up to 115 of these super lightweight, non-rusting, ultra long range, high cabin pressure wonders on order or option. When the last delays were announced, promises were made that it would still get 15 of them by next December, even though it wouldn’t receive the first as planned originally for August and then November of this year.

For Boeing to promise those Dreamliners in double digits, perhaps even single digits, to Qantas by next December is as absurd as the ceremonial roll out of the number one jet back on July 8, which was a plastic shell held together with temporary bolts.

The jet is overweight, it is terribly late, and the claimed production rates for the oven cooked carbon fibre reinforced plastic or CFRP structure are turning to CRAP.

Qantas has inextricably linked its expansion strategy for Jetstar and its own future to the Dreamliner. It may yet find the penalties for late deliveries and any performance shortfalls come in very handy if demand tanks because of a recession. The Dreamliner mightn’t make it into service with Jetstar or Qantas until 2010 at this rate.

Boeing officials were scathing about the lies and deceptions that came from Airbus over the delays to the giant A380. Airbus failed its customers badly. It held back information as to the true nature and extent of those delays, having known about wiring problems in the jet long before it conceded they existed, and after a very lame attempt to blame the customers for dreaming up too many complexities in their plans for the A380 interiors.

It was a travesty which deeply scarred the European consortium’s credibility. The spectacle of Boeing going down the same path will be painful and costly for itself and its Dreamliner customers.

Peter Fray

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