First Plane Rolled Out In 2002
There are two words employees in Washington, executives in
Chicago, and customers around the world are probably sick and tired
of hearing in the same sentence: "Boeing" and "delay." Alas, that
once again is the scenario we're reporting about.
The good news is, this story isn't about Boeing's oft-delayed
787 Dreamliner... but rather an Australian defense program based
off the planemaker's erstwhile 737 airliner. Boeing announced
Tuesday the $1 billion "Wedgetail" surveillance aircraft program
won't see its first planes delivered until 2010, due to continued
"systems integration" issues.
That's one year later than previously thought, reports
Bloomberg. It's also one year later than Boeing spokesman David
Sloan said the first planes would be delivered just last week.
Sloan said he couldn't tell reporters then the six planes would be
delayed, as employees had not yet been notified.
As ANN reported, the first
Wedgetail aircraft -- named after a native Australian eagle, and
fitted with a wedge-shaped, Northrop Grumman/BAE-sourced
early-warning radar platform atop a modified 737-700 fuselage --
rolled out of Boeing's Renton plant way back in 2002, with
deliveries slated to begin in 2006. That didn't happen... and
Australian defense minister Brendan Nelson said then his country
was "very disappointed" with what was then forecast to be at least
a two-year delay.
Fast-forward 24 months. Australia's Royal Air Force is no less
disappointed... though Department of Defence spokesman Chris Deeble
took a pragmatic tack in confirming the latest delays.
"The further delay
relates to continuing maturity, stability and performance problems
being experienced with subsystems (notably radar and Electronic
Support Measures) and system integration," Deeble wrote in an
e-mail to Bloomberg. "These issues are being progressively resolved
as part of the developmental test and evaluation process."
Under the revised schedule, Boeing will deliver the first two
Wedgetail aircraft to Australia in early 2010, with the remaining
four planes coming before the end of that year. Sydney-based
strategist Michael McKinley said that's still two years too
"If you can't get it now for effectively another two years, then
by the time you get them up and running you're talking about a
significant delay to a very expensive capital item thought
necessary for the security of Australia," McKinley said.
Boeing is also building a version of the plane for Turkey --
it's called the "Peace Eagle" there -- and that program has
suffered from similar delays.
In 2006, Boeing estimated it would take somewhere between a $300
million and $500 million pre-tax hit for the delays. No word yet on
what the financial impact will be this time around.