Long-Term Impact On Program Unclear
Is another delay looming for Boeing's 787
Dreamliner? Several analysts predict the planemaker may need
to push off its development schedule for the composite-bodied
aircraft once more... and the stock market has responded, by
driving down Boeing share prices.
Are those concerns completely justified, though? While he
believes Boeing's target of delivering 109 Dreamliners by the end
of 2009 is a tad optimistic, Credit Suisse analyst Rob Spingarn
says investors may be overreacting. "[W]e think the 787 would need
an incremental delay of a year or more to justify the latest
sell-off," he told The Associated Press.
As ANN reported, Boeing
announced a six-month delay in its ambitious 787 program in
October. First flight is now targeted for sometime before the end
of the first quarter of 2008, with the first delivery to All Nippon
Airways later this year.
To meet those goals, Boeing has doubled-up its efforts to get
the first aircraft flying... but those efforts still might not be
enough, Morgan Stanley analyst Heidi Wood said. In a research note
to investors this week, Wood predicted power-up of the first
Dreamliner won't happen until late-February, about a month later
than Boeing is shooting for... which, in turn, would move off the
787's first flight to sometime in late April or May.
Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Leach wouldn't confirm if Boeing still
plans to power-up the first Dreamliner by the end of this month.
The first aircraft -- which started in assembly last May, was
rolled out to the public in July... and since then has been torn
down and reassembled with proper fasteners -- is now in the final
production bay, she said.
"We're definitely focused on our milestones for Airplane No. 1.
Our goal is to get her out flying," Leach said.
Boeing has "largely resolved" issues that led to the original
delay, Leach added, including a shortage of the specialized
fasteners used to connect the composite barrel sections of the 787
fuselage. But niggling problems remain with a few suppliers, she
"What we're finding is that the job completion rates at the
partners are not at the pace we'd like," she said, adding the
problem isn't tied to any one supplier.
Banc of America Securities analyst Robert Stallard says even if
Boeing announces an additional three-week delay, it "should not
cause too much concern: certainly in the decades-long life of the
program it would prove to be an irrelevance."
Many feel short-term issues aren't as important in the grand
scheme of things, as the prospect that Boeing won't be able to meet
its ambitious delivery goals. In other words, analysts aren't as
concerned with delays to early milestones... so long as later goals
are accomplished with a minimum of angst.
"It's an aggressive production ramp-up schedule that does not
leave a lot of room for problems that may occur and also allow time
to fix those problems," said Peter Jacobs, an analyst with Ragen
MacKenzie, a division of Wells Fargo Investments.
"They don't want to make the same mistakes and be thrown into
the same category as Airbus when it comes to messing up the product
development of a new airplane," Jacobs said, referencing the Boeing
competitor's difficulties in bringing the A380 superjumbo to