If you believed any of the hype about the Boeing Dreamliners of which up to 115 have been ordered or optioned by Qantas and Jetstar, you’ve been had.
There will be no non-stop Dreamliners from Melbourne or Sydney to London for at least 10 years if ever. And there certainly won’t be the 15 early model Jetstar Dreamliners in service by next December as promised last October.
Worse still , if you are in the tourism industry and looking forward to the “game changing” innovations that this jet was hyped as bringing to allow non-stop routes from America and Asia into alternative gateways like Cairns, the Alice, Adelaide, the Gold Coast, Newcastle or Canberra, you too have been had.
Boeing this morning somewhat grudgingly admitted to yet another delay to the program, deferring the first flight that was supposed to have been no later than 30 September last year to no later than 31 December this year. The first jet that was rolled out on 7 July last year was then pulled apart for a rebuilding job that is still incomplete.
There is no clarity as yet as to when Qantas will get any 787s nor any believable guarantees that a new delivery schedule will be met.
Maybe late in 2010. Perhaps really in 2011. The most important version ordered by Qantas, the stretched 787-9 suitable for non-stop US flights from Queensland, is pushed back until “early” 2012, while the Japan special, the shorter range 787-3 ordered in large numbers by All Nippon and Japan Airlines, has been deferred indefinitely.
For Boeing to meet it latest promises it has to have an eight month flight certification program starting no later than year’s end.
This is a tall order for a jet claimed to revolutionise aviation by being made out of plastic composites, with sections baked in a giant oven and glued and stapled together in as little as three days in final assembly.
The hype about the 787 is coming unstuck. No-one doubts the genius of the design, but doubts about the capacity of management to run the program, which sources major components from Japan, Italy and France as well as the US are becoming more vocal.
Among the problems so far is substandard work by contractors, a central wing box that had to be redesigned because it was bending too much, an incorrectly designed landing gear door, and what are most recently claimed to be issues with its electrical generators.
Qantas needs the 787 to be on time to replace its aging Cityflyer 767s as a matter of some priority. These delays mean more pressure on its maintenance arrangements, whether at home or in Asia, to keep these jets safe and reliable for what looks like two or more years longer than Qantas ever anticipated.
With rumblings from Qantas in February about possible recourse to liquidated damages, which means cash, for any future 787 delays, it seems that Dreamliners will be delivering money to the airline well before they carry any passengers.
And if hints from various sources come true, it is money that Qantas may spend on another big order for Airbuses in the near future.