Boeing's other late dream, the 747-8, image courtesy Boeing
Boeing's other late dream, the 747-8, image courtesy Boeing

The ultimate Boeing 747, the 747-8, isn’t flying this year.

Barely a week after Boeing starting feeding nonsense into the ears of unquestioning reporters about how the 747-8 would exceed its specifications, it has announced it won’t fly until early next year, and has informed investors it will take a $US 1 billion hit because of problems with the project.

It is barely a month since the head of the 748 project, Mohammad “Mo” Yahyavi told reporters up to three of the initial freighter version of the jet could be flying by the end of this year, and that first flight was imminent.

He is either a fool or a liar. How can someone head a commercial jet program and not know the true situation when he opens his mouth?

The 748 looks every bit as shonky in its execution as the 787 Dreamliner project.

In its official statement to the markets, Boeing says ‘late maturity of engineering designs has caused greater than expected re-work and disruption in manufacturing.’

Please. Maturity? The 747 first flew in 1969. It has benefited from many enhancements down the years. It is a known quantity. The –8 freighter and passenger versions involve an adapted version of the new generation GE engines that will also, one day, fly on the 787 Dreamliner. The actual body of the 748 is stretched, making it the longest commercial jet even made.

The 748 has sold less than 100 jets, most of them in the freighter version, with Lufthansa the only carrier to order the airline version, originally for delivery next year, but not now expected until 2012.

Under the current management of the company Boeing has turned into a monstrous joke. Highlights of this dark comedy of spin and deception include deskilling the work force to the extent that it couldn’t even fit the right bolts into the right holes on the plastic fantastic 787, which wasn’t supposed to have so many bolts in the first place in its once seamless, super light weight carbon fibre laminated oven cooked shell.

Other acts in the comedy have included the Wedgetail Early Warning and Command jet for Australia, based on the 737 platform. This project is also late, and rumoured to have been compromised in terms of radar performance, with Australia even suspending payments pending clear evidence of something worth buying actually eventuating.

This morning we are told only 50% of the work needed to be completed before first flight of 748 has been accomplished. Yet only recently we were told first flight was likely by November. This is more evidence of entrenched serial misrepresentation of the true state of affairs at Boeing.

Boeing has claimed many times that the 748 is more efficient than the Airbus A380. It was so efficient on paper it was ridiculed off the podium at a presentation to Qantas some years ago.

In retrospect, a similar fate should have befallen the Dreamliner, but Qantas bought the dream, and must be wondering if it will in fact ever get any of its remaining order for 50 of the 787s this side of 2015.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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