Boeing 787: A Complete Timeline Of The Dreamliner's Legacy Of Failure, After Cracks Discovered In Wings

Boeing 787
A Boeing 787 Dreamliner Reuters

The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA) has discovered hairline fractures in the wings of yet-to-be-delivered 787 aircraft, resulting in more delays that could put the manufacturer’s target delivery dates in jeopardy.

This is the most recent in a string of setbacks for the Chicago-based aerospace giant, which has just managed to get production of the Dreamliner boosted to 10 per month after years of delays. According to the Boeing, a change in manufacturing by a Japanese supplier Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd (TYO:7011) is responsible for the fractures. Further inspections have discovered problems in other jets.

This most recent problem comes after worries with the aircraft’s lithium-ion batteries and complaints from employees at Boeing's Everett, Wash., factory that workers at the new Charleston, S.C., plant were delivering unfinished fuselages.

The worldwide manufacturing process of the 787 has been often controversial and the reason, many industry insiders claim, for the many problems discovered. This was underlined at the Dubai Air Show in 2013 when the CEO of Emirates Airline said that he would prefer that the 777X aircraft, the most recent from Boeing, be built in one location to avoid problems similar to those experienced by the 787.

Here’s a timeline of problems the Dreamliner has experienced over the last five years.

Pre-Launch Problems

Sept. 5, 2007: A shortage of fasteners and incomplete software cause three-month delay to first flight.

Oct. 10, 2007: More software issues cause further three-month delay, and six-month delay to first deliveries because of international and domestic supply changes.

Jan. 16, 2008: Another three-month delay announced to first flight.

April 9, 2008: Boeing announces fourth delay. First flight is rescheduled until late 2008 and initial deliveries are put on hold until September 2009.

Nov. 4, 2008: Boeing workers go on strike and continued fastener problems mean first flight is rescheduled for mid-2009. Various airlines claim they will sue Boeing for compensation.

June 15, 2009: In front of the aviation world at the Paris Air Show, Boeing claims the first flight will take place within two weeks. A little over a week later, Boeing cancels the first flight and reschedules for late 2009.

Dec. 15, 2009: Two years late, the aircraft finally makes its maiden flight after making high-speed taxi tests three days earlier. 

June 2010: Fleet-wide problems on horizontal stabilizers mean all aircraft in the test fleet are inspected and repaired.

Aug. 2, 2010: The Trent 1000 engine, one of two used by the airplane, suffers a blowout at a Rolls-Royce facility. First delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways, a unit of ANA Holdings Inc (TYO:9202), is delayed until February 2011.

Nov. 9, 2010: During a test flight above Texas, a 787 experiences an electrical fire and is forced to make an emergency landing. All test flights are suspended until Dec. 23.

January 2011: First delivery rescheduled until September 2011 due to electrical and software problems resulting from the in-flight fire.

Aug. 26, 2011: Boeing receives approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration and European Air Safety Agency, enabling deliveries to commence.

Sept. 25, 2011: Three years behind schedule, ANA receives the first Dreamliner.

Oct. 26, 2011: First commercial flight takes place between Tokyo-Narita and Hong Kong. Some seats fetch as much as $34,000 because of high demand from aviation enthusiasts.

Post-Launch problems

Feb. 6, 2012: Boeing finds a manufacturing problem in the fuselage section of some Dreamliners.

July 23, 2012: ANA has five aircraft repaired after discovering a problem inside the Rolls-Royce engine.

July 28, 2012: A Dreamliner suffers an engine failure on the ground at the Boeing plant in Charleston. An investigation is announced by U.S. authorities.

Sept. 5, 2012: A hydraulic problem inside an ANA 787 causes the pilot to abort takeoff. White smoke is seen billowing from the aircraft.

Oct. 4 2012: An engine problem onboard an Air Bridge Cargo 747 in Shanghai prompts General Electric (NYSE:GE) to recommend the inspection of GEnx engines, which are used on some 747 and 787 aircraft.

Dec. 5, 2012: A report of fuel leaks prompts the FAA to order the inspection of all 787s.

Jan. 7, 2013: A fire starts on an empty Japan Airlines (TYO:9201) 787 at Boston Logan International.

Jan. 8, 2013: An ANA 787 is grounded after a crack in the windshield is found. Also, a JAL flight is forced to cancel after engineers discover a fuel leak.

Jan. 9, 2013: United Continental Holdings Inc. (NYSE:UAL) discovers faulty wiring near a battery on six of its aircraft. The National Transport Safety Board launches an investigation.

Jan. 11, 2013: Another Japan Airlines aircraft is found to have a fuel leak.

Jan. 13, 2013: Japan’s Transport Ministry launches an investigation after a third leak is discovered onboard a JAL aircraft.

Jan. 16, 2013: An ANA flight from Tokyo to Ube, Japan, makes an emergency landing after a burning smell is detected in the cabin and a warning light comes on. ANA and JAL ground all their 787s, and aviation authorities worldwide order the grounding of all Dreamliners pending checks. Boeing halts all deliveries.

April 5, 2013: Redesigned batteries undergo final tests. Flights resume on April 26.

June 2, 2013: A sensor pressure detects overheating on one of its 787s.

June 23, 2013: United Airlines makes an emergency landing after a problem is discovered with the braking system.

July 12, 2013: An empty Ethiopian Airlines 787 develops a fire at London's Heathrow airport, which shuts down the entire airport temporarily. The fire was caused by a faulty battery.

July 18, 2013: A maintenance message onboard a JAL flight alerts to a fuel pump error.

July 22, 2013: An electrical panel grounds a Qatar Airways 787.

July 24, 2013: An investigation is launched after an oven overheats aboard an Air India flight.

July 26, 2013: Two ANA-operated Dreamliners are found to have faulty battery wiring, the same problem that caused the fire at Heathrow.

July 27, 2013: United Airlines discovers a problem with an emergency beacon.

Aug. 27, 2013: A problem with slats (extensions of the leading edge of the wing deployed, like the trailing-edge flaps, during takeoff and landing for added lift) forces a JAL 787 to turn back to Tokyo.

Sept. 19, 2013: A United Airlines 787 develops similar flaps problems and is forced to declare an emergency and land in Anchorage, Alaska.

Sept. 28, 2013: Technical problems with a transponder prompt a LOT Polish Airlines flight to make an emergency landing in Iceland.

Oct. 9, 2013: Electrical problems caused failed lavatories and the failure of inflight anti-ice systems on a JAL aircraft, which returned to San Diego.

Nov. 16, 2013: A British Airways flight experiences hydraulic failure.

Jan. 14, 2014: Full Japan Airlines Dreamliner fleet grounded after more battery problems.

Jan. 19, 2014: Air India flight loses all transponders.

Jan. 19, 2014: A China Southern 787 receives multiple system messages, including flaps, nose gear landing, nose gear position, doors and brakes.

Feb. 5, 2014: All management computers fail aboard an Air India flight.

March 5, 2014: Cracks discovered on wings of 787s in production. 

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