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July 22, 2009

Boeing Gives 787 a New Livery, But First Flight Could be Delayed Until 2010

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Just hours after Boeing took the wraps off a new “simplified” paint scheme for its 787 test planes, some unsettling news about the chronically delayed program has been revealed.

The 787 may not fly this year, according to a report in Wednesday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Problems with the area where the wing meets the fuselage, which caused the previous first flight delay in June, are much more complex than originally thought.

“It’s got to take at least three to four months just to get something installed on an airplane,” said a structures engineer who has been briefed on the issue. “It’s definitely a costly fix to go and do this work.”

Apparently the fix will require “a thorough redesign of the plane’s wing-to-body join, and the necessary parts will be very difficult to install on the test airplanes that have already been built.” Ouch. The timing of the report could be especially painful for Boeing shareholders depending on the results of the firm’s quarterly earnings report, which will also be released today.

Late Tuesday, Boeing released a photo of their newly painted 787 test aircraft no. 5, aka ZA005. The new scheme is, to say the least, very simple, and probably much more economical to apply compared to the standard Boeing house colors. The other two remaining unpainted planes, ZA003, ZA004 and ZA006, will also receive the new paint.

Why is ZA005 engine-less in the photo above? Boeing says the blowers have been shipped back to GE Aviation for some “planned minor improvements.”

Correction: An earlier version of this piece stated the photographed newly painted aircraft was ZA003. It is in fact ZA005.



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