According to Bloomberg.com, it looks like Boeing is going to announce another delay for the 787 Dreamliner:
Boeing Co., the world’s second- largest commercial airplane maker, today may announce a delay in its 787 Dreamliner program that could jeopardize the company’s plans to deliver the first jetliner by the end of the year, according to people familiar with the program.
The 787’s maiden flight, already moved to the end of March from last August, may now be pushed back to June, said the people, who didn’t want to be identified because they aren’t authorized to disclose the information. Boeing will announce a revised Dreamliner delivery schedule before U.S. stock markets open, the people said.
Already six months behind schedule, Dreamliner production has been hurt by parts shortages and assembly delays. Boeing has racked up 817 orders valued at more than $120 billion, making the Dreamliner its most successful new aircraft in sales. Boeing last month reiterated its goal for first delivery to All Nippon Airways Co. before the end of 2008.
“Compressing the test program to six months for a December delivery is dangerous,” said Michel Merluzeau, an aviation consultant at G2 solutions in Kirkland, Washington. “Boeing needs to do a very necessary mea culpa and delivery to All Nippon has got to be reset to spring 2009.”
Back in the late 90s, when I worked for Boeing (my first job after college), I saw some discontent within the engineering team I worked in. There was a lot of anxiousness over how the company was spreading out so much of its engineering work to places all around the globe. I worked with some hard-headed older guys who’d been working in the same place for a while and weren’t really known for their ability to change, and some of them had been down to the newly acquired McDonnell Douglas facilities in California and saw a preview of how this kind of outsourcing approach affects a flight control group.
I left the company during the engineering strike in 2000 and never really looked back. I can only wonder if some of the concerns my ex-co-workers had about the new direction of the company have been realized and are what’s causing the parts shortages and assembly delays today. Whatever is really causing the problems, it does concern me that they might rush their deliveries. This is ultimately why I find myself at odds with the popular libertarian notion that government regulation only results in a negative outcome. There are just times when companies have significant financial incentives to cut corners on safety. As much as I was impressed by how strongly Boeing did care about safety, it was impossible to ignore the fact that the work of the FAA was part of that equation. My experience there definitely moved me away from more extreme notions of having government “leave us alone.”
Then again, if the Far East keeps sending us toys with lead in them, maybe we should send them planes that aren’t fully tested yet.
[Note to trolls: That was a joke]
[UPDATE]: Commenter rhp6033 posts his thoughts on the delays and what’s been causing them.