Boeing today confirmed another long-expected delay of the 747-8, to mid-2011, but aerospace analysts think yet another 3-6 months might be coming.
A fifth 747-8 will be added to the flight test program, and customers tell us Boeing is preparing to find and provide interim lift in the form of 747-400Fs to help them through the delays, which are now around two years.
Boeing did not announce a new charge to the program today, and the company said the new delay won’t have a “material” effect on the company’s earnings. Based on previous charges, a delay appears to cost Boeing about $250 million per quarter, so even another six months, or $500 million–while a large number to the casual observer–amounts to only pennies per share against earnings. Boeing’s third quarter earnings should be announced the last week of October, when a charge might be revealed.
While any new charge won’t be “material” in financial accounting rules, to paraphrase the late Illinois Senator Everett Dirksen, a million here and a million there and pretty soon you are talking about real money. (He was referring to “billion.” not million.) Coupled with the continuing cost overruns on the 787, Boeing’s ability to refresh the 737 and 777 lines is restricted.
As Airbus prepares to announce its decision on the A320 family New Engine Option–a green light is expected–Boeing has the ability to roll the dice to do a new 737 or 777, but certainly not both. But does Boeing have the will to take on yet another new airplane program and trump Airbus? I think the answer is “no.” And this is the legacy of the outsourcing of the 787 program as demanded by former CEO Harry Stonecipher and the McDonnell Douglas-dominated board of directors in 2003.