Boeing admits Dreamliner will be late

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The Independent Online

Boeing will be six months late delivering the first of its hotly anticipated new Dreamliner aircraft, also known at the Boeing 787, following a string of supplier problems and difficulties with the complex flight software on board.

The company admitted the delay yesterday, less than a month after chief executive Jim McNerney insisted it could still be ready to ship the first airplane to Japan's All Nippon airline on time next May.

Now the first test flight will not take place until March, leaving too little time to fix any teething problems.

Severe parts shortages have played havoc with Boeing's production schedule, and appear far from resolved. Any further slippage could affect the plans of dozens of airlines which have placed more than 700 orders for Dreamliners since they went on sale in 2004, making it one of the most popular aircraft launches in the industry's history.

Boeing's customers include Virgin Atlantic, Continental Airlines, Qantas, and the UK's First Choice Airways, which is expecting its first deliveries in spring 2009. All Nippon had been hoping to use the Dreamliner to fly passengers to the Beijing Olympics next summer.

"We deeply regret the impact these delays will have on our customers, and we are committed to working with them to minimise any disruption to their plans," said Scott Carson, president of Boeing's commercial airplanes division. "The most important commitment we've made to our customers is to deliver an airplane that performs to their expectations over the long life of the programme. These changes to our schedule will help ensure we do just that."

Boeing shares fell 2.7 per cent on the news, extending declines experienced since the start of the month as scepticism has mounted over its official delivery schedule. The company said last month that it would delay the first flight to at least mid-November, but had insisted it could meet its May deadline. Parts shortages and delays with the aircraft's software have forced the company to rearrange the order in which it is assembling the planes, causing knock-on manufacturing complications.

Delivery delays are likely to trigger compensation payments to airlines, but Boeing insisted the delays would not trigger a profit warning.

The Dreamliner's popularity rests on claims of superior comfort and fuel efficiency – and on the serious problems experienced by a rival project from Europe's Airbus, whose super-jumbo, the A380, had to be radically redesigned.

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