Industry insiders and Wall Street analysts are expecting further delays on Boeing Co's new 787 Dreamliner, as the US plane maker grapples with last-minute design changes and production problems.
Most now point to the second half of 2009 as the likely start of deliveries of the lightweight plane, at least six months later than Boeing's current target and about 15 months beyond the original schedule.
The latest problem involves redesigning the plane's crucial center wing box, according to Steven Udvar-Hazy, chief executive of International Lease Finance Corp, which is the biggest customer for the 787. ILFC is a unit of insurer American International Group Inc.
Speaking at a JPMorgan investor conference this week, Udvar-Hazy said he now expected first delivery around September 2009, after Boeing fixes the problem and gets the plane through testing and certification.
The first 787 was originally set for delivery in May 2008, and is now officially scheduled for sometime in early 2009.
Udvar-Hazy, who runs the world's largest and most influential plane lessor, called the state of the 787 program "not pretty," according to JPMorgan analyst Joseph Nadol.
Boeing has said it will issue a new production schedule next month, and is widely expected to announce a delay, but it gave no indication of that on Thursday.
"The center wing box issue has been addressed," said 787 program spokeswoman Yvonne Leach, in a statement. "Boeing is working its normal processes for developing a new airplane."
Boeing is officially sticking to its plan to deliver the first 787 early next year, after production problems forced two delays in the past six months.
But most in the industry are expecting more delays and a drastic cut to the production schedule.
Boeing had originally planned to deliver 112 787s by the end of 2009, later scaling that back to 109. Most Wall Street analysts are expecting far fewer, with Nadol of JPMorgan now forecasting only 30 deliveries of 787s in 2009.
Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst at Teal Group, is forecasting only 10.
Earlier this month, Goldman Sachs analyst Richard Safran predicted further delays on the 787, pushing first delivery to July next year at the earliest.
Boeing shares rose 1.7 per cent to $74.67 on the New York Stock Exchange on Thursday. They are down 31 per cent from their all-time high of $107.80 in July last year, largely due to delays on the 787. (Reuters)
Buyers expect more delays on Boeing 787