Boeing: Lost in Translation?

By Tim Raetzloff | Aug 11, 2011

Seven months ago I reported on the confusion between Arabic and English translations of a speech by Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al-Baker.

English headlines reported that Qatar Airways had reaffirmed confidence in the Boeing 787.

Arabic headlines said that Qatar Airways would cancel the existing contract for 30 787s.

Mr. Al-Baker is the man who famously said in November 2010, “Boeing’s 787 program has very clearly failed. When you put a company in the hands of accountants you will always get garbage out.” 

I wasn’t able to resolve the translation problems fully, but I did guess that Al-Baker was saying that he expected Boeing to meet its contractual obligations and deliver 787s before the end of 2011.

I also said that any expectation of a delivery of a 787 to Qatar Airways in 2011 was impossible because the first scheduled Qatar 787, #57 in the Boeing delivery schedule, would not begin production before January 2012.

Probable delivery would not take place until mid-2012. 

In the seven months since I wrote that little has changed, except the schedule has become more delayed.

If Akbar Al-Baker was upset with Boeing at Christmas time, how does he feel now?

It is certain that he will receive no planes in 2011.

A delivery in 2012 looks more uncertain every day.

The schedule has slipped further since December.

It now looks like the first Qatar Airways 787 may begin production in March 2012 if there are no more delays.

In the seven months since I wrote about the confusion in translation the Boeing 787 production line has slipped two additional months into limbo.

If this pace of slippage in production is maintained, the production of 787 #57 for Qatar airways will begin in May or June 2012.

The plane will be in production for two months or more, then testing and fitting out.

It may be delivered in 2012, but early 2013 looks more likely every day.

If Mr. Al-Baker was angry with Boeing in late 2010, I don’t want to be the one checking his blood pressure in late 2012. 

The 787 production line continues to slip into an indefinite future. For us as observers, the first real clue that Boeing management has finally gotten it right will be when production schedules are maintained without stand downs and production rate slippage.

More than a year ago Boeing management announced that production of the 787-8 would be at two a month in August 2010. More recently Boeing management announced that production would increase to 2.5 787s a month in August 2011, and grow to the unbelievable number of 10 a month in 2013. We are presently in a 4-week production delay.

The two a month rate has yet to be achieved and there is, as yet, no reason to believe that 2.5 is at hand.

Ten deliveries a month looks like a pipe dream.

When Boeing management and reality are on the same page, only then will the 787 be a real airplane. 

Until that day Mr. Al-Baker’s blood pressure will need to be monitored.

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