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Boeing: 787 will get 'minor design changes'; Delay to be determined

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Boeing's said it will implement "minor design changes" to the 787 Dreamliner's power distribution panels as the result of an electrical fire on one of its test airplanes. Analysts say the news is good since it won't significantly delay the Dreamliner.

Boeing's said it will implement "minor design changes" to the 787 Dreamliner's power distribution panels as the result of an electrical fire on one of its test airplanes. Analysts say the news is good since it won't significantly delay the Dreamliner.

The company said late Wednesday that the results are in from its investigation into the fire on its test airplane. Earlier this month a 787 test plane, the ZA002, conducted an emergency landing following an onboard electrical fire.

Since that event speculation has swirled that the 787 would be delayed again.

Also see: Boeing's 787 Dreamliner: Simply too complex?

According to Boeing, it has been able to simulate the fire in its labs. The plan now is to develop design fixes.

In a nutshell, Boeing said the fault started as a short circuit or electric arc in the P100 power distribution panel, which ferries power from the left engine to other systems. The P100 is one of five major power distributions systems on the 787. Debris probably started the short. Boeing will improve the design to better protect the panel and implement software changes.

Boeing said it will provide an update on how long the design changes will take. It will deliver a revised 787 schedule "in the next few weeks."

Analysts said the Boeing statement was good news. In a research note, Jefferies & Co. analyst Howard Rubel said:

We feel comfortable that the outcome from the ZA002 electrical incident will not cause a harmful delay to the program. While management did not provide an indication of a new schedule or timing for the restart of flight testing, we sense the delays are frustrating, but not of a long-term nature.

Myles Walton, an analyst at Deutsche Bank, said it's likely the 787 program will be delayed 3 to 6 months.

Larry Dignan

Editor-in-Chief

Editor-in-Chief Larry Dignan is editor-in-chief of SmartPlanet and ZDNet. He is also editorial director of TechRepublic. Previously, he was an editor at eWeek, Baseline and CNET News. He has written for WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, New York Times and Financial Planning. He holds degrees from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the University of Delaware. He is based in New York but resides in Pennsylvania. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure