Washington: US aerospace giant Boeing on Thursday delayed the maiden flight of the 787 Dreamliner plane and pushed back first deliveries to early 2010 because of production and labour problems.
The six-month-postponement was the latest setback for the Dreamliner project that was launched in 2004 with a record order from All Nippon Airways.
Now the Japanese launch customer will not receive delivery until the first quarter of 2010, roughly two years later than initially promised.
Boeing pushed back the 787’s first flight into the second quarter of 2009 from the current fourth quarter. Deliveries most recently had been slated to begin in the third quarter of 2009.
“The new schedule reflects the impact of disruption caused by the recent machinists’ strike along with the requirement to replace certain fasteners in early production airplanes,” the company said in a statement.
Boeing indicated on 4 November it would postpone the first test flight of the Dreamliner because of problems with fasteners and a crippling 58-day machinists strike that had ended two days earlier, but at the time provided no new schedule.
Separately, Boeing announced a management shuffle that moved Scott Fancher, the head of the missile defense business, in charge of the 787 program. Fancher replaces Pat Shanahan, who will lead a program for all current production and development programs, including the Dreamliner.
The Chicago-based company’s announced delay sent its stock tumbling by 3.384% to $40.27 on the US stock market on Thursday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid 2.24% as investors fretted over a $14 billion rescue plan for the troubled US auto industry.
The aerospace group said it would provide Dreamliner customers with updated delivery schedules after evaluating the impact of the delay on delivery dates.
Boeing has staked its future on the Dreamliner, its first new model in more than a decade. The plane is competing with the new A380 superjumbo from European aircraft manufacturer Airbus in an aviation market reeling from the global financial crisis and falling demand.
Repeated delays in the Dreamliner program leave the manufacturer vulnerable to demands for compensation from irritated customers.
Boeing has 896 orders from 58 companies to date. All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s second-largest carrier, was the first 787 customer, ordering 50 planes for about $6 billion in April 2004. Deliveries were initially scheduled to begin in 2008.
According to Boeing, the 787 will use 20% less fuel than today’s airplanes of comparable size because it is being built with plastic composites instead of aluminum.