A Boeing supplied image of its first ever commercial airplane and the first 787
A Boeing supplied image of its first ever commercial airplane and the first 787

Qantas today confirmed that it expects to gets its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners in mid-2013, or five month’s sooner than the first of that model is delivered to launch customer Air NZ in December 2013.

Our query as to how the Dreamliner orders were tracking was prompted by Flightblogger’s scoop over a somewhat embarrassing glitch caused by a design flaw in the tail section of the 787-8 model, which has been undergoing its certification and flight testing program since making its first flight on December 15 last year, shown in the Reuters YouTube below.


Below is the relevant part of the Qantas guidance on July 26 last year concerning changes to its Dreamliner family orders.

revised QF 787However the mid-2013 commitment made by Boeing concerning the 787-9 looked as difficult to fulfil then as it does now, as Boeing was telling Qantas one thing while it was telling everyone else that first orders would be made at the end of that year, and to the New Zealand carrier.

Since last July Boeing has disclosed that the wing span of the stretched –9 version is to be reduced to become identical to that the smaller –8, but has also assured customer airlines that this will not affect its range and payload, which for Qantas is a guarantee that the jet will, as originally promised, fly non-stop with a full payload between the east coast capitals and Los Angeles or San Francisco.

The claimed lightweight and range payload efficiency of the mid-sized 787 Dreamliner family clinched the Qantas group order for its full service operations as well as Jetstar that was announced in December 2005.

The jets would not only replace the Qantas 767 fleet, but allow it to re-enter lost markets or create new ones, and from August 2008 according to the original schedule.

Recent guidance from Boeing is that the 787-8 will achieve certification and be delivered to lead customer All Nippon Airways in the last quarter of this year. This was issued after several US analysts said the 787 was now three months behind in its latest schedule and would not be delivered until toward the end of the first quarter of next year.

Earlier this month, before the somewhat surprising news about the thermal fatigue issues was disclosed to Flightblogger, Boeing said no major issues had arisen in the flight test and certification program, that everything was on time (as in on time to be almost three years later that originally promised) and that all design commitments would be met.

Boeing is today reported as saying the thermal fatigue issues, which have the potential to ‘compromise the integrity of the air frame’ would not delay the certification program.

The affected parts, described in more detail by Flightblogger, Jon Ostrower, would be replaced before final assembly of the components took place at Everett, or retro fitted to the those Dreamliners already substantially completed and awaiting delivery following certification.

None of which detracts from the beautiful headline image of the first Dreamliner, ZA001, flying in formation at 12,000 feet with the only surviving flying example of the first Boeing commercial airplane, a Boeing Model 40, near Seattle earlier this month.

The Model 40 was built in 1928, and its history is outlined here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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