2012 787 Year in Review
2012 was a year highs and lows for the 787 program. While Boeing executed very well on it plan to increase production and work through the back log of airplanes sitting around Everett waiting to be modified and delivered, the program was bedeviled by teething problems while in customer service.
These problems were magnified by the media spotlight that this airplane had to contend with since 2007. Every new squawk that appeared was magnified by the media despite the benign nature of most of these issues. The most notable was the diversion of a scheduled United 787 flight from Houston to Newark, NJ. The aircraft landed in New Orleans without incident as the pilot noticed irregular indications on the cockpit displays related to the electrical system. United stated that the issue was traced to a starter generator supplied by Hamilton Sundstrand.
Despite all this many customers reported that they were very happy with the performance of the aircraft. Air India was able to turn a money losing route (Delhi to Frankfurt) into a profitable one. ANA itself reported that the aircraft was more fuel efficient than they had expected. As Boeing works out the excess weight of the aircraft in subsequent block numbers and GE & Rolls Royce brings their respective engines closer to promised fuel burn specs the 787-8 will only get better.
During 2012 Boeing had delivered 46 787s to 8 different customers. 7 of these customers received their first 787s this year. The airlines that Boeing delivered these aircraft to represented every continent on the world except Antarctica (still waiting for Penguin Air to order, I guess). Of the 46 airplanes delivered, 31 airplanes had to under go some amount of change incorporation through the Everett Modification Center while 15 were delivered straight from the the final assembly lines at Everett and Charleston. Over all Boeing has delivered 49 787s since deliveries began in September 2011.
I was expecting Boeing to deliver 50 787s this year and they fell short of this number quite narrowly by 4 airframes. This is attributable to the failure of the Chinese and Air India to take delivery of 787s that are ready for service.
On the 787-9 development front, Boeing, at last report, had completed over 90% of the detailed engineering design work for this variant of the aircraft (this was accomplished back in September, 2012) and work started on the first major fuselage assemblies in the last couple of months. Boeing is reporting that the aircraft is meeting weight expectations and does expect that they will deliver and aircraft that will come in well under the contractual weight made to customers.
Boeing has seemed to have executed well on its plan for 2012. They had estimated that they would deliver between 35 and 43 787s in the year and they exceeded that delivery plan. 2013 will be a crucial year in terms of the production and delivery ramp up as well as the start of testing on Boeing newest 787 variant. However there are looming problems that can derail those plans in a significant way. These will be explored in the 787 2013 year look ahead.