When United Airlines published schedules for their initial 787 service offerings there was great excitement. When they actually took delivery of the first aircraft it was a big deal, with media outlets covering it from many angles. Since that delivery there have been a number of test flights around the system, allowing the crews to continue their familiarization with the aircraft. It has also allowed the FAA to test the pilots on various operational aspects such as simulating a mechanical diversion or similar. And it has given the ground crews in many stations the ability to practice their jobs with respect to handling the aircraft.
It also seems to have exposed some issues with the aircraft and United’s ability to operate it reliably. When delays crop up on test flights it is easy to write them off as “other” events rather than indications of real problems. But the frequency of delays on these test flights, as well as other rumblings and rumors, suggest that all is not well in United 787 land. Indeed, delivery of the second aircraft has not yet occurred.
The rumors suggest that there are issues with the electronics in the aircraft. Given that the 767-300s being retrofit into 2-cabin international configs are also having electrical issues and that the two share IFE systems this is rather worrisome. There is also a story floating about in unofficial circles that the company had trouble getting the plane started at one station heading in to a test flight last week. That’s not particularly comforting either.
Hopefully the company manages to figure things out and can get caught up enough on the testing that they do not have to push the scheduled entry in service back from November 4th. The timetables have already been adjusted to add longer turn times for the aircraft, giving larger buffers for things to go wrong. If that’s not enough then there will be a lot of unhappy customers.