The sting in the Qantas announcement of cuts and deferrals in its 787 Dreamliner order lies in the words that the decision “had not been influenced by the announcement this week of a design issue and further delay to the aircraft’s first flight.”

That comes later. After Boeing finally reveals how seriously the project has been affected by the failure of the modelling of the behaviour of composite/alloy structures in the wing joint that Boeing tried to pass off as a “side of airplane” location earlier this week.

Boeing is doing things with carbon fibre reinforced plastics on airliners never done before. And it has failed to make them work as advertised, right up to the shameful posturing by its senior management in Paris last week, claiming a first flight was going to take place by 30 June.

The delamination of the affected area at well below the stress levels required for certification is the latest and gravest of a series of glitches in the design and development of a project driven by a marketing vision rather than the engineers and specialists attempting to get it together.

In the interim, and before the full picture was revealed, Qantas had reached an agreement with Boeing that cancelled 15 out of an order for 65 Dreamliners and defers the first 15 deliveries to Jetstar for international services from next year until mid 2013.

(There was never going to be a 2010 Dreamliner delivery to anyone.)

The details published in full on Plane Talking see Jetstar getting a larger and later version of the Dreamliner than originally planned in the 787-9, and the original version the –8, being delivered in an acceptable form to Qantas from late 2014 to replace its 767 Cityflyer fleet, which is old and increasingly costly to maintain and fuel.

The announcement buries the grandiose plans for the 787s by previous CEO Geoff Dixon and his CFO Peter Gregg when ordered late in 2005. These include their passion for a version of the Dreamliner that could have flown non-stop to London, a dream killed off by technical challenges and now likely to be solved by an advanced version of the Airbus A380, but only if the economics fall into line.

Having made its decision public this morning Qantas is working out how to fill any gaps left by a 787 situation that is now looking worse by the day in terms of jets that are to old to justify retaining in the fleet.

The nonsense that came from Boeing’s management about the problem areas being of negligible weight, and small enough to fit into a hand, and capable of internal patching leaves Qantas and other 787 customers severely exposed and wondering what sort of people they are really dealing with.

A completely new test wing, including redesigned components, has to be built, and then it has to pass the 150% of maximum design load stress test.

This alone is likely to take until after next February, the latest month a test flight 787 can pass the critical cold soak test which is also part of the certification process, at a base in the high Arctic or Siberia.

This requirement means there can be no deliveries to airlines of 787s until at least March 2011. And many of the design assumptions of the 787 must now be reworked. If the jet is later than mid 2011 entering service the –9 variant that Qantas is now scheduling for mid 2013 for Jetstar cannot realistically be ready until 2014 at the earliest.

The magnitude of this screw up by Boeing is starting to call into question any 787 in a form that resembles the jet which at the last minute the company dared not fly even from its assembly plant in Everett to Boeing Field, the test flight centre, a mere 38 kilometres away.