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 labor 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 next year from the current fourth quarter. Deliveries most recently had been slated to begin in the third quarter of next year.
“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 Nov. 4 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.
All Nippon Airways complained yesterday about the new delivery delay but said it had no immediate plans to review the deal.
“The six-month postponement will have a big impact on our business,” said a spokeswoman for Japan’s second largest airliner, which has ordered a record 50 Dreamliner jets from the US aerospace giant.
“The delay is extremely regrettable,” the spokeswoman said. “However, we have no immediate plan to review our deal or seek compensation although we may have to consider various things depending upon the situation in the future.”
The announcement came less than three months after ANA said Boeing had promised to deliver the first jets in August next year, 15 months behind schedule.
The plane, Boeing’s first new model in more than a decade, 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.
Japan Airlines, which also ordered 35 Dreamliner jets, will urge Boeing to provide details of its latest delivery schedule, a company spokesman said.
Boeing said it would provide Dreamliner customers with updated delivery schedules after evaluating the impact of the delay on delivery dates.
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. ANA was the first 787 customer, ordering 50 planes for about US$6 billion in April 2004.