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Boeing 787 Delay Call Live

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Here are the highlights of the Boeing 787 call starting at 10 EDT. The webcast is to explain yet another delay in the first flight and deliveries of t...

Here are the highlights of the Boeing 787 call starting at 10 EDT. The webcast is to explain yet another delay in the first flight and deliveries of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which was announced this morning.The delay was caused by one or two inch square areas where static tests showed stresses that computer models did not. The problems are on the upper side of the plane where the wings attach to wingbox in the fuselage.

Apologies in advance for typos and misspellings which will be fixed. Some is paraphrased.

Participants:

Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes

Pat Shanahan, VP and GM of Boeing Commercial Airplane programs

Scott Fancher, VP and 787 program GM

10:00

Carson - fundamental technologies are absolute sound. Integrated systems are maturing and performing.

All airplanes will be kept in flight ready condition.

10:05

Shanahan. Late last month, we were conducting a series of tests. Bending wings in full scale test airplane. Part of normal testing. During one test, we identified stress on side of body structure in excess of expectations. Indicated we could proceed with first flight. Side of body joint....decided last week to postpone first flight.  It is not an issue with workmanship or design. Composites are sound.

10:10

Fancher - We are already moving toward a solution. They are now looking at each proposal that best achieves requirements. Then it has to be tested. Will then proceed with flight program. We have to give team time. Will not compromise process for sake of schedule. Share first flight date in next several weeks. Ten days ago, intermediate gauntlet was successful in airplane 1.

Carson: Reinforce a limited section of structure before flight test. It is the prudent step to take. Limited and localized modification is "quite manageable."

Q&A begins

Q: Will it add weight to aircraft?

A: Shanahan:  A few handful of parts in a small area. Modification that can readily installed. Don't see very much weight be added to the aircraft. Small amount of weight. No impact on outer mold so no aerodynamic impact.

Q: Impact on schedule?

Carson: We do not have a reset for the schedule. As we delay flight test, it delays completion of flight test. Will be some impact.

10:15

Q: In Impact on aeroadynamic models

Shanahan: Models were very accurate. Exceeded expectations to predict material and structural performance. Will go back to revisit model that did not predict this situation and tune it up.

Fancher - We do testing for a reason because models are not perfect. When that occurs, stand back and understand and re-anchor the models. That's where we find ourselves. Timing is unfortunate.

Q: Modification on major plane parts coming to Everett for assembly?

Fancher: relatively small number of parts (for modification). Insure they can be installed in fully assembled aircraft. Modification made regardless of where equipment is. We'll continue to flow production system.

10:20

Q: Where do you stand on static test?

Fancher: Continuing to static test all the way through ultimate. Opportunity for a disconnect between our prediction. Do we consider it lightly? No. Area we are talking...has titanium, aluminum and composite. Strain gauges did not [agree] with prediction (and models).

Nothing about this issue that prevents us to go into final gauntlet testing. From there, we will proceed into taxi testing. Give us opportunity to mature systems on the ground.

Q: How much of an area are we talking about?

Fancher: One or two square inches in one or two locations. Need to move those stresses where they need to be.

Q: Concern over modification so close to first flight?

Shanahan: It's not uncommon to find issues to cause test or design team to take pause and correct the issue before proceeding. If we had found this a couple of months ago, we wouldn't be having this phone call. We'll come up with one fix and incorporate it.

10:25

Q: Hard time visualizing what this is. Is this simple? Is there a sketch?

Shanahan: We're talking handful of parts you can hold in your hands. We'll look into [a sketch].

Q: Is this isolated to single structure? Wingbox from Fuji? Both starboard and port? Side sided?

Shanahan: Multiple structures and it is an integrated. Wings from Mitsubishi and side of body (Fuji). [Area] developed and designed by Boeing, Fuji and Mitsubishi.

Q: Under the belly? Along the fuselage? How big is section?

Fancher: One or two side of body joins between the body and wing. Upper portion where wing and side of body join in 36 locations. Number may change. We are talking about a one or two inch area along wing join area. Does not extend down the wing or into the aircraft.

10:30

Q: Boeing credibility in schedule? You knew late last month. Why wait to go public until now?

Carson: Work done by the team narrowed the envelope where we determined on Friday that we could have plane in air, but it would not be very useful (for testing).

Q: What would be worst case if you had it flown?

Shanahan: Likely nothing would have happened.

Carson: When the process says stop, we stop.

10:35

Q: What is dollar outcome?

Carson: Premature to forecast where we are in dollars. We understand nature but not specifics of the fix. As we get through those, we will be in a position to understand the dollars.

We will continue to emphasize test program and using time productively. Correct with question that the fix will be immaterial to cost of airplane.

Q: What is customer reaction?

Carson: We started that late last night. All of them respected the process and respected our judgment we should fix this. They're interested in the integrity of the product.

Q: Impact on production?

Carson: No impact. Two a month. Process we are going through now is to modify predictive models to fix what we see in the future. Static tests results match what we [modeled]. Little hesitant to say that precisely (that only airplanes 1 and 2 are affected).

Shanahan: Do have ability to work 24x7 around the world to contribute to modification.

10:40

Q: Stop or delay planes?

Fancher: Do it out on the field. No reason for planes 1 or 2 to go back into assembly. No schedule change to planes in assembly, but may change sequence of work.

Q: Impact on certification? Why will such a simple fix take so long?

Shanahan: We've seen nothing here that compromises to get airplane certified from ground or flight testing. Relatively complex area of the airplane. We want to make sure we anchor those observables to the analysis. It may take us less time than we mentioned.

Q: Parts are titanium? Effect on suppliers.

Fancher: Likely to be titanium. Could be aluminum. Ready to fabricate immediately.  No schedule impact.

Q: Where do airplane 1 and 2 stand in schedule?

Shanahan: Heavier that production aircraft. That's normal.

10:45

Last question: No one responds.

Carson's last comment: We are all anxious to see this airplane fly. Need high confidence. Tests we are running that solutions are found sooner rather than later. Commitment to people, customers and flying public.

Conference ends.

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John Dodge

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor John Dodge has written for the Wall Street Journal, Boston Globe, PC Week (now eWeek), EDN, Design News, Electronic Business, Bio-IT World, Health-IT World, Lowell Sun, Haverhill Gazette and Newburyport Daily News. He is based in Massachusetts. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure