The inability of Boeing to predict when it will deliver 787s to customers is hurting American Airlines deeply. The airline said on December 9 that it has to cut back on its planned summer 2022 schedule because it will lack sufficient wide-body aircraft, notably thirteen Dreamliners. Boeing 787 delivery delays are hurting American.
“Boeing continues to be unable to deliver the 787s we have on order, including as many as 13 aircraft that were slated to be in our fleet by this winter”, American’s management writes in a letter to its staff. “Without these widebodies, we simply won’t be able to fly as much as we had planned next summer, or as we did in 2019.”
According to a 10Q SEC filing in October, American Airlines expected to take delivery of three 787-8s this year and ten in 2022. In 2023, it expects eleven Dreamliners (of which five -9s), in 2024 six, in 2025 five, and beyond 2026 also five, making 43 in total. Financing commitments for eighteen 787s are in place, with these aircraft to be purchased on operating leases. The remaining 25 are direct purchases and show up in Boeing’s undelivered backlog.
No airplanes, no routes
Without the Dreamliners, American has dropped Edinburgh, Shannon, and Hong Kong from the 2022 summer schedule but evaluate options to bring them back once aircraft have been sourced. The planned return to Dubrovnik and Prague has been called off. Frequencies to Shanghai, Beijing, and Sydney will be significantly reduced while the launch of Seattle-Bangalore has been delayed. From now, American will deploy every wide-body in its fleet to long-haul services.
Despite the delayed deliveries, American says in the letter that “we still have great confidence in the Dreamliner and continue to work with Boeing on when these aircraft can ultimately be delivered to us.” The airline will be financially compensated by Boeing for the inability to deliver the aircraft on time.
As frequently reported here, Boeing has been unable to deliver 787s since May due to multiple quality issues. They include inadequate shimming of fuselage sections and in the forward pressure bulkhead, a skin flatness issue, and deficient quality of titanium parts sourced from an Italian sub-supplier. Last month, the potential contamination of composite parts became the next issue. This could result in insufficient bonding of sub-assemblies.
Boeing will only be cleared to start redelivering 787s again once the FAA is fully satisfied that all issues have been addressed correctly in both the production process and on aircraft that are in inventory and need rework.
Two ADs call for Dreamliner inspections
The agency released two Airworthiness Directives earlier this week to address certain quality issues, for which Boeing issued Service Bulletin back in September 2020. The first AD was prompted by reports that shimming requirements on 79 787-8s and -9s were not met during the assembly of certain areas of the front spar pickle fork and front spar outer chord structural joints, “which can result in reduced fatigue thresholds of the affected structural joints. The FAA is issuing this AD to address undetected fatigue cracking, which could weaken primary structure so it cannot sustain limit load, and could result in the reduced structural integrity of the airplane.”
The agency calls for repetitive inspections and requires repetitive high-frequency eddy current (HFEC) inspections for cracking around all the fasteners common to the front spar pickle fork outer chord surface between stringer S-22 and stringer S-24, and along the entire forward edge of the front spar pickle fork outer chord covered by the body chord splice angle between stringer S-24 and stringer S-25.
The second AD covers the same shimming issue on the same 79 Dreamliners but then on the aft wheel well bulkhead (AWWB) body chord and AWWB side fitting and failsafe straps. Here too, the FAA requires high-frequency eddy current inspections.
There are some 105 Dreamliners in inventory right now. Rolls-Royce said on December 9 that the delayed deliveries of some 30-35 Trent-powered aircraft have resulted in some £300 million lower outflows that it expects to cover only in 2022.