01 juli, 2009

Boeing 787 delay – Part of the McDonnell Douglas heritage?

The 787 is the first new plane to be developed since Boeing and McDonnell Douglas merged in 1997. It was said that the 787 would bring out the best from both companies. However, what should have been a dreamliner has turned into a nightmare for Boeing. The initial version is too heavy and it is running more than two years late. The resemblance between the 787 and the MD-11 is very similar.

First flight on the MD-11 should have occurred in March 1989. However problems with the manufacturing, suppliers and labor actions delayed the first flight to January 1990. After delivery to airlines it became apparent that the MD-11 failed to meet its performance target. McDonnell Douglas along with GE and P&W launched a Performance Improvement Program (PIP). The program lasted from 1990 to 1995 when the MD-11 finally met its performance.

By that time the 777 and A330/A340 had made the MD-11 obsolete. The main difference between now and then is that Boeing can afford the delay to get it right the first time and the 787 represent a bigger leap in technology than the MD-11 did represent. Even if the first planes fail to meet the performance guaranties, it will still be more efficient than today’s plane.

If the latest delay is the last and the plane perform as expected Boeing will manage well with their 787. If however they do not get rid of the MDC heritage for the 737 replacement or 777 replacement they might break their back eventually.

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