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Boeing cancels summer lift-off for Dreamliner: Aerospace expert says manufacturer shares blame for setback on breakthrough aircraft.

BOEING has announced additional delays to its first all-composite airliner after problems with external suppliers and late redesign work.

The US aircraft maker has encountered a number of problems during the production of its first 787 Dreamliner, such as parts shortages, and has been forced to make engineering and manufacturing changes. The problems have resulted in a six-month delay to the project.

The company said that subassemblies from outsourced companies had been supplied incomplete, which meant its own engineers had to undertake unexpected work. The 787's first flight was due this summer but has been rescheduled for the end of the year, with the first deliveries pushed back to the third quarter of next year.


Boeing's management of the project has been widely criticised, and many industry insiders had predicted problems at an early stage.

Philip Lawrence, director of the Aerospace Strategy Research Centre at the University of the West of England, Bristol, described the management philosophy as "lean manufacture taken to the extreme".

"Boeing in the past prided itself on the work it did inhouse, unlike Airbus which has always been distributed as it is a four-nation consortium," Lawrence said. "Suddenly, for financial reasons, Boeing pursued a model that is 80%-plus outsourcing. What it ended up with is a supply chain that is too cumbersome to manage.

"Boeing has bought out Global Aeronantica because of quality issues and has now taken control back in-house. There is a major problem with the composites fuselage sections and it is having big problems with what is coming out of the autoclave. There are also still a lot of issues on the safety side with electromagnetic hazards like lighting strikes, because the material doesn't conduct away electrical energy."

It is unclear if Boeing's customers will pursue penalty payments for the late delivery of the aircraft, a move that caused significant financial strain to Airbus after it announced similar delays on its A380 superjumbo last year.

Scott Carson, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said: "Our revised schedule is built upon an achievable, high-confidence plan for getting us to our power-on and first-flight milestones.

"The fundamental technologies and design of the 787 remain sound. We have taken significant action to improve the supply chain and production performance, such as our investment in Global Aeronautica."

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Publication:Professional Engineering Magazine
Date:Apr 23, 2008
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