Boeing might delay 787 further

 

Boeing is set to announce a further delay to its 787 Dreamliner, a source familiar with the situation said on Tuesday, threatening to push deliveries of the new, hot-selling plane even further back and increasing the risk of costly penalty payments to airlines.

 

The carbon-fiber, wide-body plane - which is the most successful launch in Boeing's history - is already six months behind schedule due to problems with suppliers and parts shortages.

 

Boeing's stock closed down more than four per cent to its lowest since September 2006, adding to the decline in the Dow Jones industrial average, after news of the delay was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.

 

The stock has now fallen 28 per cent from the all-time high last July, when hopes for Boeing's latest fuel-efficient, long-haul aircraft were strongest.

 

The Chicago-based plane maker may push back the first 787 test flight to June, the Journal reported, from the current end-March target. The plane was originally slated for first test flight last August.

 

Any further delay would likely make it impossible for Boeing to hit its target of 109 deliveries by the end of 2009, which would eat into expected revenue.

 

Last week, Boeing would not confirm or deny a blog report that the plane was three weeks behind schedule.

 

Boeing has taken orders for 817 Dreamliners from 53 airlines and leasing firms, worth $135 billion at list prices. Industry analysts generally believe Boeing's new plane will ultimately be successful, but have grown wary of faltering progress in building it.

 

"Investors are likely to require clear signs that this is the last of the delays, which will take some months to prove out," said Morgan Stanley analyst Heidi Wood, in a research note.

 

Japan's All Nippon Airways, the first 787 customer, declined comment on reports of the delay, saying it had not heard anything from Boeing on the matter. All Nippon is currently scheduled to get its first 787 in late November or December, six months later than the original target of May.

 

Talk of more delays on the program have been circulating for some weeks in the industry, which witnessed similar spiraling delays on rival Airbus' A380 superjumbo.

 

Last week FlightBlogger (www.flightglobal.com/blogs/flightblogger/), a respected blog run by aviation enthusiast Jon Ostrower, reported that the 787 was facing a further three-week delay. FlightBlogger was the first to report on delays on the 787 last summer, long before Boeing admitted it was having problems.

 

A new delay would be an embarrassing blow for Boeing, which only last month insisted the 787 was on track to meet its revised schedule. In October, Boeing put back first delivery of the plane by at least six months due to production problems.

 

Boeing's shares closed down $3.81, or 4.7 per cent, at $77.86. The stock touched $76 at one point, a fall of 6.9 per cent, marking its biggest one-day fall since August 2002. (Reuters)

 

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