Boeing 787 Restart Leads To Uncertainty Around Delivery Timing

Uncertainty around 787 delivery timing led American Airlines to cut some planned long-haul flying.
Credit: Joe Walker

This is an abbreviated version of the article Boeing 787 Faces Scrutiny Beyond Delivery Restart by Sean Broderick. 

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Stepped-up FAA scrutiny of Boeing’s 787 post-production process will extend beyond resumption of deliveries, as the regulator plans to handle individual aircraft inspections and issuance of paperwork required to finalize customer handovers.

The agency says it plans to inspect 787s and issue airworthiness certificates until it is satisfied that: “Boeing’s quality control and manufacturing processes consistently produce 787s that meet FAA design standards,” Boeing’s aircraft-by-aircraft rework plan is in working, and its “delivery processes are stable.” It adds: “This will allow the agency to confirm the effectiveness of measures Boeing has undertaken to improve the 787 manufacturing process” (AW&ST Dec. 6-18, 2021, p. 14).

Learn more about the FAA's plan to inspect 787s and issue airworthiness directives.

Improving the delegation process work has been a focus of U.S. lawmakers and the agency in the wake of two fatal Boeing 737 MAX accidents caused in part by ineffective oversight (AW&ST March 9-22, 2020, p. 46). A year-old law mandates that the FAA retain some tasks it had previously delegated and review others before handing them over to company staffers working in FAA-designated Organization Designation Authorization units or otherwise representing applicants.

Find out why developing a process to determine how much work is needed and the type of work required, is a challenge.

Neither Boeing nor the FAA will discuss when 787 deliveries will resume. Weeks ago, an early second-quarter time frame seemed in play.

During American Airlines’ fourth-quarter earnings call on Jan. 20, Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr said the airline is slated to take its next 787 delivery in mid-April—adding that the date had been “locked in for several months” (AW&ST Feb. 7-20, p. 26). The delivery was one of 13 that American said it expected to add in 2022, including four in time for the peak summer season.

During Boeing’s fourth-quarter earnings call Jan. 26, CEO Dave Calhoun declined to comment on a specific delivery resumption date, but he suggested that Kerr’s comments were accurate.

“The customers know everything that we do,” Calhoun said. “We share the same regulator. They are in our factories looking at the airplanes every day. So they know exactly what’s going on and where it is.”

Despite customer confidence in the aircraft, some are dissatisfied. Read American Airlines' response.

This is an abbreviated version of the article Boeing 787 Faces Scrutiny Beyond Delivery Restart by Sean Broderick. Subscribers can read the full article here.