"Friends, Romans, country-Fools, lend me your ears; I come to bury Boeing, not to praise it."
Actually, no, I don't. If you've been reading the news this week, you know the media done buried Boeing (NYSE: BA ) already. The catastrophic electrical failure on a Boeing 787 undergoing test flights in Texas has the world's aero-press donning sackcloth, rending hair, tossing ashes in the air. Once again, Boeing has promised to deliver 787s to its customers on a date certain. Once again, it seems it will be unable to keep that promise.
But all is not lost. While it may come as little consolation to airline customers that include United Continental (NYSE: UAL ) and AMR (NYSE: AMR ) , the fact that Boeing suffered a catastrophic failure this week, does not equal Catastrophe-with-a-Capital-C.
Mistakes happen. Catastrophes, too
I mean, yes, Boeing has halted flight testing of its 787 fleet. It needs to, as it struggles to figure out what went wrong. Yes, whether Boeing wants to admit it or not (Hint: it doesn't), this will almost certainly delay production, and prevent Boeing from meeting its latest promised delivery dates. Suppliers like General Electric (NYSE: GE ) and Honeywell (NYSE: HON ) will have to wait longer for orders to materialize. Airlines, and airplane lessors who've ordered 787s, including CIT Group (NYSE: CIT ) and AIG's (NYSE: AIG ) ILFC subsidiary, will have to wait longer to get their planes.
How do I know this? Well, I don't -- it's not easy predicting the future with 100% certainty. But the facts of Tuesday's disaster tell me the situation isn't quite as bleak as the headlines make it seem. Because -- and I'll risk stating the obvious here -- flying machines thousands of feet over the earth is a hazardous endeavor. It's dangerous business, and to account for that, the planes Boeing builds are "designed to handle failures" without killing everyone aboard.
Boeing's 787 did that. As Boeing tells us (and it had FAA experts aboard, watching when the disaster happened, so you know Boeing can't be stretching the truth too much here), "power systems were disrupted [but] the airplane responded to the disruptions in the manner we would have expected and the pilots continued to complete the landing." In short, a catastrophe struck, but the plane and everyone in it survived.
Make no mistake -- Boeing's got its work cut out for it, fixing this problem. Then again, it's been fielding and fixing such problems for three long, ever-overoptimistic years now. It will fix this one, too.