A timeline of the 787 Dreamliner's building process from 2002-present
December: Responding to airlines’ calls for more fuel efficiency rather than extra speed, Boeing drops its “Sonic Cruiser” concept. Much of the Sonic Cruiser’s composite materials, avionics and engine technology will reappear in the 787.
January: Boeing sets up a team of executives to design and sell a new plane now officially dubbed the 7E7 (E for efficiency). First test flight is scheduled for August 2007, first deliveries for May 2008.
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March: Boeing seeks proposals for locating the plane’s assembly plant. Ultimately, 22 states submit bids to attract the 800 to 1,200 jobs Boeing promises for the plant.
Washington’s odds appear long, due to its tax and regulatory structure: Some estimates say Boeing’s costs would be 25 percent higher here than in some states aggressively pursuing the 7E7. Washington Gov. Gary Locke and other state officials embark on an eight-month battle to land the deal.
June: Locke signs into law a $3.2 billion, 20-year tax-break package for the aerospace industry that would take effect only if the 7E7 were built here. The tax package brought the gap between Everett and Kinston, N.C., the lowest-cost site competing for the 7E7, to less than $300 million, The Seattle Times reported.
Boeing’s “Name Your Plane” competition results in the choice of “Dreamliner.”
December: Boeing CEO Harry Stonecipher confirms the board has agreed to build the 7E7 and assemble it in Everett.
July: Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) becomes the 7E7’s launch customer with a 50-plane order.
December: The company ends 2004 with 56 orders for the new plane, fewer than its goal of 200.
January: Boeing designates its new plane the 787. Mike Bair, who heads the jet program, says “the numeral 8 is good luck in China; 787-8s for the 2008 Olympics made a nice package for them.”
April-May: Sales momentum accelerates as Boeing wins big 787 orders from Air Canada and Air India. A sale of 18 Dreamliners to Northwest Airlines marks a key defection from an Airbus wide-body customer.
September: Boeing says main features of the 787 airplane design are complete and sends detailed design work to the company’s global partners on the plane: Mitsubishi, Fuji and Kawasaki, of Japan; Alenia, of Italy; Spirit Aerosystems, of Wichita, Kan.; and Vought, of Dallas. The Puget Sound region will manufacture only the vertical tail fin, built by Boeing near Tacoma.
The 787 manufacturing plan calls for Boeing’s partners to pre-install all wiring and ducting, so that seven large, all-but-completed structural sections of the jet arrive in Everett for snap-together assembly.
The Machinists union rejects a proposed three-year contract and goes on strike in three states. It’s the union’s first strike since 1995 and lasts one month.
December: Boeing adds 232 orders for the 787 during 2005, for a running total of 288, as airlines worldwide embrace the plane’s promised efficiency.
May: Boeing says parts of its global supplier network won’t be ready when the first 787s come together in just over two years, so mechanics in Everett will have to install some of the planes’ electrical wiring and other systems.
January: A Wall Street analyst says the 787 program is running into delays and cost increases. CEO Jim McNerney says the plane is on target for its first test flight around the end of August 2007 and first delivery in May 2008.
May: Boeing shows media the first 787 starting to come together in Everett.
June: Boeing engineers assembling the forward section of Dreamliner No. 1 find a 0.3-inch gap at the joint between the nose-and-cockpit section and the fuselage section behind it, made by different suppliers. Engineers fix the distortion by disconnecting and reconnecting internal parts that brace the frame.
Reports surface at the Paris Air Show that the 787 is up to four months late. Boeing says the first test flight may slip to September 2007, with the jet still on schedule for first delivery in May 2008.
July: The first assembled 787 is rolled out in front of 15,000 employees and customers at Everett, with live global satellite feeds and much hoopla. But unknown to the worldwide audience, the plane is a hollow shell. And even some of the outer structure is fake: The wing slats are painted wood.
Once back in the factory, the airframe is partially disassembled. Extensive rework is required because the plane was put together with temporary fasteners in the airframe and major systems weren’t installed.
July 25: Boeing shares hit an all-time high of $107.80, boosted by strong 787 orders. The company admits the plane is running slightly behind in certain areas but holds to its schedule.
October: Boeing acknowledges a delay of up to six months — the worst delay to a jet program in the company’s history — due to problems in unfinished work passed along by its global partners and delays in finalizing the flight-control software. The new schedule puts the first flight in March 2008 and the first deliveries late that year. Mike Bair, 787 program head, is replaced by Pat Shanahan from Boeing’s defense unit.
November: Ousted program head Bair admits the 787 supplier partners let Boeing down, saying, “Some of these guys, we won’t use again.”
December: Boeing blasts past its record for commercial-jet sales, to a total 1,423 gross orders for the year, including 346 for the 787.
A Seattle Times analysis of the 2003 tax breaks granted to Boeing shows they delivered about 200 supplier jobs, rather than the 3,600 forecast. On the other hand, the tax breaks are calculated to be worth at least $500 million less than originally thought.
January: A further three-month delay is announced due to problems with unnamed 787 suppliers and slow assembly progress at the Everett plant. First flight is moved to June 2008 and first delivery to early 2009, putting the plane about nine months behind its original schedule.
April: Boeing confirms yet another six-month delay due to continuing problems with unfinished work from suppliers. The first delivery is pushed to the third quarter of 2009 — about 15 months behind the original schedule. Some of the largest 787 customers’ planes will be at least two years late.
September: A second Machinists strike begins at Boeing, lasting 57 days. The company struggles for a month afterward to get production back on track.
November: News emerges of a new, embarrassing and serious problem. About 3 percent of the fasteners put into the five test airplanes under construction in Everett were installed incorrectly and must be removed and reinstalled.
December: Boeing acknowledges another six-month delay for the 787 and reorganizes management again. Shanahan is put in charge of all commercial-airplane programs and brings in Scott Fancher from Boeing’s military side to take the day-to-day lead on the 787. The first Dreamliner is now scheduled to fly sometime between April and June of 2009, with first delivery to ANA sometime in the first three months of 2010.
The Dreamliner ends 2008 with more than 900 orders.
January-February: Facing a sharp industry downturn, Middle East leasing company LCAL and Russian airline S7 Group cancel orders for 37 Dreamliners. Many other customers push back their 787 delivery dates.
May: Dreamliner No. 1 moves out to the flight line, scheduled for first flight in June.
Late in the month, Boeing engineers working on the ground-test airplane find a structural defect at the wing-body joint. The problem is not made public during weeks of analysis that follow.
June: At the Paris Air Show on June 15, Boeing commercial-airplanes CEO Scott Carson says the plane is on schedule to fly by month’s end. The following week, Boeing engineers decide the structural flaw must be fixed before the plane flies. On June 23 Boeing stuns the industry by postponing the first flight indefinitely.
Australian carrier Qantas cancels 15 787s.
July: Engineers begin work on a fix for the wing-body joint flaw.
Key lawmakers warn that unless the Machinists union and Boeing can reach a no-strike agreement, the company intends to locate a planned second 787 final-assembly line outside the state.
Boeing says it will acquire the 787 rear fuselage assembly plant in Charleston, S.C., buying out its partner Vought for about $1 billion.
August: Boeing’s new schedule calls for first flight by year’s end, with first 787 delivery by the end of 2010.
Four days later, Scott Carson steps down as chief executive, replaced by Jim Albaugh, previously chief executive of Boeing’s defense and space division.
September: Workers at the new Boeing Charleston plant vote to oust the Machinists union.
October: Cancellation of a 10-plane order by a U.K. charter company reduces the 787 order book to 840.
Intensive talks between Boeing and the Machinist union end in acrimonious failure. Boeing announces the choice of Charleston, S.C., for the second final assembly plant.
November: Boeing breaks ground in Charleston, S.C., for a 750,000-square-foot complex.
Boeing mechanics complete the wing-body joint fix. Engineers repeat the wing stress test, and the Dreamliner gets the green light to fly.
December: After a repeat of engine and system tests and a series of taxi tests on the ground, the first flight is scheduled.
Research by Seattle Times staffer David Turim and aerospace reporter Dominic Gates