The comments made by Air New Zealand’s chief financial officer, Rob McDonald, in Sydney this week concerning ‘painful’ delays to its launch order for the Boeing 787-9 are regarded as the smoke rising from an issue that is about to ignite in the view of some observers in the US.
The ‘flash point’ may be next Wednesday’s second quarterly Boeing investor briefing (Thursday here) in which analysts have predicted sharp cutbacks in the first quarterly guidances concerning the 787 and 748 new airliner projects given by a company that struggles as much with the truth as it does with meeting performance specifications and delivery promises.
In his comments McDonald said the -9 version of the Dreamliner, for which Air NZ is the first customer, would now be delivered sometime in 2014, rather than late 2013, after earlier promises of deliveries about now.
Wrong. The amount of work that has to be done to get the 787-8 certified, useful, and delivered is such that the -9 derivative will not be in Air NZ’s hands on more informed estimates until sometime in 2015, or even 2016.
Like Qantas with its original 2005 deal for 787-8s and -9s, Air NZ drove a great bargain for the dream, but failed to get any independent assessment as to whether the proposed use of carbon fibre reinforced plastics which would be woven, glued and baked into fuselage barrels and wings was likely to deliver a super light weight, corrosion resistant and easily maintained airliner as promised by Boeing’s game changing sales evangelistas in the middle of the last decade.
I’m firmly of the view that this has turned into a disaster for Boeing and its customers, in that the technology and the production techniques for the Dreamliners have failed to work anywhere near to what was claimed for them, and that fulfilling the promises is either going to take many more years, or end in comprehensive failure.
The signs from Airbus for its A350 XWB family, which also relies extensively on thin load bearing composites, aren’t promising either.
It is impossible to work out what the benefits for these first generation high composite airliners will really be if the claims made by the marketing campaigns prove false.
None of the critically important guidance made by Boeing about the 787 Dreamliner since mid 2007 has proven correct. No manufacturer has ever been so consistently wrong about one of its products for so long, or, thumbing through the press release and guidance filings archives, so persistently wrong in terms of detailed projections.
It is now three years since the initial 787-8s were to enter service with All Nippon Airways. It is two years since the Boeing 747-8F was supposed to go into service, with deliveries by the end of 2010 of the passenger version to Lufthansa.
This makes it very difficult to believe anything Boeing might say next Thursday Australian time, but a comprehensive admission of deliberately misleading its customers for a period of years would be a good start, followed by the resignation of the senior management team and the restructuring of the board.