Boeing's Dreamliner woes will likely dominate aerospace conference

Feb 12, 2013

The problems surrounding Boeing’s flagship 787 Dreamliner are likely to dominate an annual aerospace conference taking place north of Seattle this week.

The conference will draw about 400 people from airplane manufacturers, suppliers and airlines. Conference topics include biofuels, airplane interiors and the health of the airline industry.

But the issue looming over the entire meeting will be how long it will take to fix the Dreamliner’s batteries and get the plane back in the air for passengers.

Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia will give forecasts on commercial aviation and military markets. He says a lot of suppliers are trying to figure out what the grounding’s impact is on their own businesses.

"There will be a lot of questions about whether or not the long-term promise of the aircraft has been affected," Aboulafia said. "In other words, even if we’re looking at a six-to-nine month delay due to recertification, will that impact the actual sales and production numbers in the long run?"

Aboulafia says people are concerned that if parts of the plane have to be redesigned, it could hurt the Dreamliner’s fuel efficiency – which is one of the plane’s biggest selling points. He says he doesn’t think the performance of the plane will change much, even with modifications.

But Boeing will probably have to go through a recertification process, which Aboulafia says could take six to nine months. There’s a chance the FAA could approve a workaround to let the existing fleet fly during the recertification.