By giving up control of its supply chain, Boeing had lost the ability to oversee each step of production. Problems sometimes weren't discovered until the parts came together at its Everett, Wash., plant.
As the project fell further behind schedule, pressure mounted. It became increasingly clear that delivery deadlines wouldn't be met.
The world got its first glimpse of the Dreamliner on July 8, 2007.
It was “beyond experiencing a rock star on stage,” said Bryan Dressler, a former Boeing designer. “This thing is so sexy, between the paint job and the lines and the fact that it's here now and you can touch it.”
But like so much of show business, the plane was just a prop. It lacked most flight controls.
On a cold, overcast morning in December 2009, it all came together.
A crowd gathered at Paine Field, the airport adjacent to Boeing's factory. The Dreamliner climbed deftly into the sky for a three-hour test flight.
But passengers wouldn't first step aboard the plane until Oct. 26, 2011, three and a half years after Boeing first promised.
Boeing had hoped by the end of 2013 to double production of the Dreamliner to 10 planes a month. There are 799 unfilled orders for the plane, which carries a $206.8 million list price, although airlines often negotiate deep discounts.
Then, this month, all the progress came to a jarring halt.
First, a battery ignited on a Japan Airlines 787 after it landed at Boston's Logan International Airport.
Then a 787 flown by Japan's All Nippon Airways made an emergency landing after pilots learned of battery problems and detected a burning smell. Both Japanese airlines grounded their Dreamliner fleets. The FAA, which just days earlier insisted that the plane was safe, did the same for U.S. planes.
As investigators try to figure out the cause of the plane's latest problems the world finds itself in a familiar position with the Dreamliner: waiting.