In a move worryingly reminiscent of the 787 production woes, Boeing will freeze 747-8 assembly for a month from May 6 to incorporate changes from discoveries made during flight test and to allow workers in Everett to catch up on thousands of unfinished items, or ‘traveled work.’
The move, first reported by Dominic Gates in the Seattle Times, is an unwelcome new delay to a program desperately trying to catch up on almost two years of program slippage. Boeing says the interruption to production will not delay first delivery to Cargolux later this summer, the manufacturer is assessing the overall impact on downstream deliveries later this year.
Boeing plans to resume normal production flow in early June, but there is speculation already starting that the temporary production freeze will be sufficient to knock delivery of the first 747-8 passenger variant into early 2012. The first aircraft is due for delivery to a completion center for conversion into a corporate jet. The first passenger version for launch customer Lufthansa is due for delivery in the first quarter of 2012.
Aircraft will remain in place for a month from May 6 onwards. (Boeing)
Although there has been discussion of a first delivery to Cargolux around the Paris air show in late June, the pace of flight testing on the 747-8F continues at an unrelenting pace – suggesting that certification work will come down to the wire if this is indeed the target. The original test workhorse, RC501, is expected to continue its remorseless exploration of stability and control characteristics, as well as flight control system responses during tests set for May 6 over southern California. Sisterships RC503, RC521 and RC523 are meanwhile being employed primarily on systems certification tasks out of Boeing Field, Seattle.