Boeing scraps plans for 787 wireless system

Boeing assembles its 787 "Dreamliner," which scrapped its wireless entertainment system after numerous difficulties.
Boeing assembles its 787 "Dreamliner," which scrapped its wireless entertainment system after numerous difficulties. The Boeing Company / The Boeing Company
/ Source: The Associated Press

Boeing has scrapped plans for a wireless entertainment system on its new 787 "Dreamliner," about eight months before the plane's first scheduled flight.

But the change won't delay the new plane's assembly, and going with a system of wires rather than antennas actually will trim pounds from the weight-conscious 787, Boeing officials said.

"We're putting in about 50 pounds of wiring and taking out about 200 pounds of other gear," said Mike Sinnett, director of 787 systems. "And from a schedule point of view, it makes life easier for us."

Problems with the wireless system became clear in December, Sinnett said: "A number of key indicators started to go bad."

Among the difficulties were attempts to get regulatory approval for wireless frequencies in about 100 different countries, and concerns about the amount of bandwidth available to passengers over the system, officials said.

Boeing held onto the planned wireless system as long as possible, assuming that a switch to a wired system would add weight. But engineers found they could actually cut pounds by eliminating antennas, wireless access points and thickened ceiling panels, Sinnett said.

The 787 has been struggling to reach its target weight, and Boeing is pushing to trim extra pounds. The company still expects to have the 787 at its target weight in time for the first delivery.

Boeing said it had already informed 787 customers about the wireless switch.

Word of the change followed a difficult Monday for Chicago-based Boeing Co.'s stock, which tumbled 3.4 percent after a Wall Street brokerage issued a disputed report predicting delays of the 787.

Boeing denied any such delays are foreseen, and another analyst said Wall Street's concerns about potential delays were overblown.

The two-engine 787 will deliver better fuel economy than older four-engine jets in the same size category. As fuel prices rise, the fuel-efficiency sales pitch has grown more persuasive.

Boeing stock closed down $1.44, or 1.64 percent, at $86.16 in Thursday's trading on the New York Stock Exchange.