Boeing is using the language of failure again in its guidance on the problems with the 747-800F, the freighter version of what is supposed to be the last and finest of the line of ‘jumbo’ jets stretching back nearly 42 years.

Its spokespeople are insisting that the customers for the ultimate variant of the 747 will be ‘very happy with it.’

Not that ‘the 747-8F will do everything we promised it would in range and payload or maintenance costs’, a criticism that can also be made of its pronouncements about the 787 which now conceded to be running so late it will not go into service until early in the New Year, with something even later than that looking more likely by the day.

There is a report about this in the Seattle Times by Dominic Gates which merits careful reading.

To go for the bigger picture, Boeing has a management that has been derelict with its guidance at every important juncture in the 787 and 748 programs, not counting getting the days of the first flight approximately right once they were only a matter of weeks away from occurring.

It is a management that has hacked deeply into the cost base of Boeing, but killed the culture of innovation that made Boeing great.

So much so that 787s were being assembled without the right ‘fasteners’ or rivets in the right holes at one stage and fabricated with undiagnosed flaws in the shear ties in the tail section of the jet at another.

Reviewing mainstream print and on-line reports about the 748 delays in the last week, not once does Boeing unambiguously claim to be able to solve the design deficiencies.

It does say with conviction that it won’t be necessary to make ‘structural’ changes to the wings, but if it can say that, it must have a fool proof solution at hand, or is it in some sort of denial about the issues?

Has it just given itself another six months to find a non-invasive solution to things it doesn’t know how to fix, seven months after the first flight of the 747-800F that was to start going into service next month?

The criticism has been voiced in the US that if Boeing has to struggle to produce what is a derivative of a 41 year old jet something is deeply wrong in the company.

The 748F and its passenger derivative is not a concern for Qantas. But the situation with the 787 Dreamliner is troublesome. Is Boeing really going to deliver to Qantas (in the first instance for use by Jetstar) a plastic airliner that does all the things and to the exact numbers that Qantas was promised when it ordered these jets in December 2005 for delivery from August 2008.

And will it really get them from June 2012?

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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