Some journalists have started to compare 787 with Comet. That is not the right comparison:
De Havilland Comet was the first jet, by far, more little than the present ones, and it developed a nasty habit: Exploiting in mid-air. Comets were flying higher and faster than propeller planes but the engineering was the same and there was the problem: The difference of pressures between the cabin and the outside were fatiguing the materials until the final crack. Of course, this final crack happened at a moment when the difference of pressure was at its peak, that is, flying at cruise level.
Perhaps a nearer plane to compare should be the DC-10 by McDonnell Douglas. The final scene of the plane, an also of the manufacturer, should be the accident of Turkish Airlines 981. The investigation should discover many things about the manufacturer like ignoring serious design flaws or “oiling” the regulator to pass as a recommendation something serious enough to guarantee a design change. Nothing of this kind has been seen in Boeing but an idea remains: A bad design, and DC10 was a bad design, can kill a big manufacturer.
Boeing 787 was and still is the weapon that Boeing was trying to use to reach Airbus level in commonality and cost contention. When Airbus launched, years ago, its A320 model, it was not a single plane but a platform that, repeated in different sizes and ranges, could start a full family. Boeing never had that family and the situation was even worse once Boeing had to buy the remains of McDonnell Douglas with a fully different fleet. Boeing 787 was intended to be the “A320 from Boeing”, that is, the starting point for its future models.
The plane has some very attractive things from the passenger point of view like a higher cabin pressure getting a more natural environment especially for long flights or a big increase in windows size having more natural light in the cabin…it also had a new model of batteries that seems to be guilty for almost all of the problems that the plane had during its first months of commercial life.
It’s true that it has been a problem with a window in the flight-deck but this is not the first time that this happens with a new model. Furthermore, an Airbus A380 had an explosion in one of the engines and it was very near to disaster (it is not an engine stop in one plane with 4 engines but an explosion that severed a lot of hydraulic, electric and data lines and provoked massive fuel leaks). The presentation of the A320 was also “funny”. Even though, the model and the whole family who came afterwards have been successful.
Boeing can recover from the 787 issue but time is against them, not to say competitors as Airbus and new ones as the Chinese Comac and, of course, Russian manufacturers that start to try to compete in the high-technology aviation.