Boeing confirmed this morning that the Dreamliner 787 has a new schedule for first flight by the end of the year, this year, with first deliveries to launch customer All Nippon Airways in the third quarter of next year, 2010.

The announcement means that Boeing intends to complete all of the test flights and other certification processes within a period of around 9 months.

And although the question does not appear to have been raised by the US financial media during a conference call, this implies that the 787 will perform its critical cold soak test before the end of the coming northern winter in an arctic location, meaning by March next year.

Otherwise, it cannot be certified until the following winter, meaning first deliveries at the earliest would occur in December 2010, although more likely in the first quarter of 2011.

The jet was rolled out in a sham ceremony on 8 July 2007 with promises of first flight by the end of September, 2007, and first deliveries by May 2008. Since then every timetable announced for the 787, which was also described as using new yet ‘mature’ high composite materials technology, has proven wrong and misleading.

Qantas has 50 of its original order for 65 Dreamliners in place, with a promise that the first of them, the second version, the stretched and super long range 787-9, will be delivered by mid-2013. Qantas CEO, Alan Joyce, says he believes Boeing, but is taking a lease on 4 additional Airbus A330-200s just in case.

It is obvious to everyone else in the airline game that the 787-9 will not be ready for delivery to Qantas in mid-2013. The development of this version follows the initial -8 model by two and a half years according to Boeing, so the truth as to just when the -9 will eventuate is unknown.

In a statement released by Boeing, its chairman and chief executive officer, Jim McNerny, says “This new schedule provides us the time needed to complete the remaining work necessary to put the 787’s game-changing capability in the hands of our customers.”

The question is, what game is being changed? How does a larger, heavier, shorter range version of the 767, which Boeing describes the 787 as replacing, change anything, especially somewhere in the middle of the next decade?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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