With certification of the Boeing 787 Friday, the countdown to delivery–now slated for September 26–is finally underway.

Aspire Aviation has a piece that for the first time anywhere as far as we know has the actual number of airplanes to be delivered this year (seven). Boeing has been ambiguous about the actual deliveries, including line numbers (only three from pre-20, which are the most challenging airplanes).

AirInsight continues to hear that deliveries could be as few as four; Boeing has yet to announce a number.

Flightblogger has an interesting piece with charts visualizing the 787 orders, cancellations and geographic distribution; and the engine orders.

What’s not there is the math showing the cancellations from the peak. At one time Boeing had slightly more than 950 orders for the airplane. There are now 821 orders.

Despite the program’s difficulties over the past 3 1/2 years, make no mistake: delivery will be a milestone in commercial aviation.

With the 787 being the first composite airliner and the first to rely on electronic rather than air for many of its systems, operations will, in a macro sense merely be a continuation of the flight test program. Only time will tell if Boeing’s pushing the envelope on technology to such a degree will pay off over the long run.

Although Boeing outsourced too much engineering and too much production–which it has admitted on both counts–the design and concept is entirely Boeing. The company has come under often withering criticism, much of it justified, for losing the Boeing legacy and becoming McBoeing following the merger with McDonnell Douglas and under the debilitating influence of the McDonnell Douglas culture and leadership. But bottom line: Boeing still took enormous risks with the 787 concept and despite initial recalcitrance, Airbus was forced to follow with the composite A350 XWB.

Boeing considers the composite structure to be the “baseline” for future airplane. Boeing Commercial Aircraft sorely wanted to proceed with the New Small Airplane as a composite design. Airbus forced Boeing’s hand to proceed instead with the 737RE (assuming, of course, the Board ratifies this decision at its meeting today as expected). But the 787’s influence is already apparent in other products, including the 737.

The 737NG’s new Sky Interior is an offspring from the 787, and so is the 747-8I’s. The engines for the 747-8 are versions of the GEnx created for the 787. If Flightblogger is correct, laminar flow technology to be incorporated in the 737RE is obviously a spin-off from the 787.

We would not be surprised to see laminar flow technology appear one day on the 777 as Boeing decides how to improve this already superb airplane to meet competition from the A350-1000. Boeing is already talking with GE about the prospect of a GEnx version for the 777 with the same competitive goal in mind. We would bet that a 787-style interior will eventually appear on the 777 as well.

During the height of the 787 delays and troubles, a SPEEA official suggested–only half in jest–that Boeing should reclassify the entire 787 program as one massive R&D given that profits would likely be challenging if at all (Boeing is expected to set an unprecedented accounting block of at least 1,000 airplanes). The 787 would serve as the basis for developments in other airplane programs, the official suggested.

Given the evidence already at hand, the official wasn’t far off.

This may well be the legacy of the 787 program. And that’s nothing to sniff at, either.

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