Boeing’s Dreamliner dream run with the US media is well and truly over.

After rumblings in the financial media a month ago after the company was compromised by promising a first flight of the 787 prototype by 30 June and then cancelling it with only days to go after revealing it had broken a wing/body joint in a static test late in May the larger scale American media has zeroed in on the problems confronting a management that is unable to say anything without being caught out.

Today’s report in USA Today is the mega-circulation turning point made inevitable after earlier disclosures in The Seattle Times exposed more of the awful truth about the latest Dreamliner glitch to Boeing’s home state audience in Washington.

The sad thing about the general and technical media’s lazy complicity with the Boeing PR machine is that it has been counter productive. The gullibility of the reporting of this program in the most part overlooked the opportunity to throw a harsh light on the discrepancies between what was being promised and what was happening, or not happening that could have in turn forced Boeing to confront the real issues.

That is, the project is poorly managed, the jet, so far, is a dog, there is no evidence of the weight or efficiency savings promised in its operations, there is no sign of the streamlined lower cost manufacturing processes, and there hasn’t been a single correct forward looking statement from the company in relation to its progress or lack of it since at least the middle of 2007.

USA Today has also touched on the wider issues. Boeing is a sick outfit in terms of projects. The Australian Wedgetail airborne early warning and command program is vastly over budget and timetable, although at least from the ADF perspective, no more money is being paid to Boeing for those aircraft until they prove they are worth being accepted. The 748 freighter and passenger program is running late. Boeing is now performing a pike and double twist over the US air force in-flight tanker replacement program by reversing its stance about the suitability of the 777 as an alternative candidate for the the contract compared to the 767, which the USAF found to be inferior to the Airbus A330.

The history of Boeing media this decade has been one of huffing and puffing over Airbus, rather than materially meeting the competition. These campaigns of misinformation included the original Sonic Cruiser proposal which was supposed to make the A380 irrelevant, followed by a campaign which no airliner other than Lufthansa took seriously, which proposed that a final version of the 747 could be built that would outperform the giant Airbus. The jet, the 748, is also running about 18 months late, and the original claims made for it look at the very least questionable.

The illustrious achievements of Boeing in the past, including the 777, are not in doubt.

But their betrayal and ruination by incompetency are undoubted. These are grievously serious times for Boeing, and spin doctoring and media indifference have finally run their course.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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