Thursday, January 2, 2014

787 Program 2013 Year in Review: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

2013 for the 787 program was a mixed bag for Boeing.  The program is on a firmer footing compared to a year ago but issues certainly has hit the program hard.  Boeing did deliver 63 (by my count, this may increase as Boeing may have made contractual delivery prior to New Years but fly away may occur after New Years Day) 787s in 2013.  Currently there are 17 operators and 16 customers of the 787.  The delivered fleet count is now 112 aircraft delivered to the 16 customers.  Here's my take on the past year:

The Good

Boeing executed the planned increases in production rate to 10/month as promised and they had also launched the 787-10 which promises to be a big seller and has 132 firm orders 6 months after the formal program launch.  Boeing's guidance for deliveries in 2013 was more than 60.  Boeing has delivered 63 787 but this number may grow as contractual deliveries may have been made prior to January 1, 2014.  Lastly, Boeing has started flight testing the 787-9 the larger iteration of the 787-8.  There has been no apparent hiccups and flight testing looks to be going very smoothly for this aircraft.  Certification testing has begun for both the GE and Rolls Royce powered aircraft.  First delivery is still slated for mid 2014.

The Bad

The 787 continues to suffer from teething issues which has impacted customer on time dispatch rates. Numerous customer complaints, some of which were very public (Norwegian). The issues, many of which are traced the software, are expected to be fixed by summertime but it do damage to the 787 brand.  The continued teething issues will continue to be a sore point between Boeing and its customers but when the aircraft is flying revenue flights, it is making money for its owners.

The Ugly

The ugly certainly is the lithium ion battery short circuit that caused a fire on a JAL 787 in Boston and a smoke condition on an ANA aircraft that was airborne.  The subsequent grounding raised a lot of the certification of the aircraft and the electrical architecture which became the subject of Congressional hearings.

Boeing did devote a tremendous amount of resources to develop a new containment and venting system that would ensure that a fire couldn't go beyond the battery itself.  This focus on finding a way to contain a fire without knowing the root cause of the battery overheating was very controversial but not without precedent. Boeing was able to convince the FAA, customers and other international aviation regulators of the effectiveness of the new system that flights resumed in late April and deliveries restarted in May.

In July, Boeing got another fire scare as an Ethiopian 787 that had just completed a flight to London's Heathrow Airport experienced a fire in the rear crown area of the aircraft. British investigators traced the fire to the aircraft's emergency locator transmitter (ELT) but the investigation is still not final.  Boeing repaired the aircraft in a closely watched process.  There have always been questions as to large composite sections can be repaired.  Boeing got this first opportunity and they were apparently successful as the aircraft has returned to service with Ethiopian last month.

Coming Soon: Look ahead to 2014 for the 787 program and my predictions.

Full 787 List

Current 787 Production List

Delivered 787 List

787 Monthly Delivery Tracking

787 Customer Delivery

787-9 Flight Test Hours

Current 787 Operators



Andrew Boydston said...

On the Delivered 787 List you copied over the green format from its prior status of Ready For Delivery. That is my Good.

The Bad is the Japan Airline order of 31 A350 instead of additional 787-9's or 10's.

The Ugly is airlines buy half baked Airbus Ideas as validation of its own dream.

Ignazio Di Napoli said...

How was Ethiopian's aircraft repaired?