Some thoughts about the 787 program
A big weekly magazine from Hamburg wrote some time ago that Airbus is doomed, as they didn´t have an answer to the Boeing 787 until 2013. Some month later this stopped, as Boeing announced their first delay of the 787. It´s now 2009. The Olympic Games in Peking is almost a year in the past. Some airlines planned to use the 787 for their routes to the Olympic Games.
It´s 2009 and the aircraft flew a single mile so far. But they announced a time ago that the 30th of June 2009 would be the date of the first flight. Today Boeing announced, that there will be another delay. They didn´t even announced a new date.
I´m just an interested outsider with some knowledge about aviation, but not expert by a wide margin. I have just the points available in blogs and newspapers. But after thinking about it, there are some points that looks strange to me.
The 787 is overweight already. More weight results in less passengers or less range. Now they have problems with the stability of the fuselage near or at the center wing box. You could read at some news outlet, that they plan to stabilize the fuselage with some metal reenforcments (titanium et al.). This must add to the already too high weight of the aircraft.
The other point that is wondering me is the undefined delay. I don´t really believe that they can´t predict the exact time they need to put some metal into the aircraft. Maybe it takes quite a time to do this, but Boeing doesn´t build its first aircraft, so they should be able to predict the time at least with resonable precision. Especially as they now about the problem since may. I feel it in my right toe, that there will be more disturbing anouncements in the future.
By the way … i strongly believe that the aviation authorities will look even more intense at the carbon fibre fuselage after the disclosure that they have problems with the stability. At one news comment you could even read even the bad D-word, the delamination of composite materials:
When engineers checked the areas flagged by the instruments measuring the strain, they found evidence that the structure was indeed stressed. Asked if that meant delamination of the composite material, Fancher didn't specify exactly but hinted that visible damage was apparent.
As far as i understand it, delamination is the equivalent to metal fatigue problems. And interestingly there were already some rumours in the past about delamination problems. My heart is somewhat splitted. At the one hand, i would like to see this project ending in a disaster just to show all those management school and spreadsheet people that outsourcing your core competencies to partners will at least lead to many problems. This should be a lesson to all people trying to give away high-skill jobs to the outside of a company. To give an example from the IT: Maybe you can outsource the people that convert your thought-out pseudocode to real code, but you shouldn´t outsource the people thinking about the architecture and the guiding lines for the implementation. But that´s just my personal opinion. At the other hand: A disaster in the 787 program would be a disaster for Boeing and all the people working there. And most of the people have a family, debts to pay and so on. And so this would be a disaster hitting real people.