AFP - US aerospace giant Boeing said Thursday it was delaying initial deliveries of the new 787 Dreamliner plane to early 2010 because of production problems and a crippling machinists strike.
It was the latest setback for the Dreamliner project that has been plagued with delays since its launch in 2004 with a record order from All Nippon Airways.
With the latest delay, the Japanese launch customer will not receive delivery until the first quarter of 2010, roughly two years later than initially promised.
Boeing moved the first flight of the fuel-efficient 787 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 announced on November 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.
"Boeing is under pressure after announcing the latest delay in its 787 Dreamliner aircraft," analysts at Charles Schwab & Co. said.
Boeing shares clawed back from opening lows and were trading 0.26 percent higher at 41.79 dollars in volatile late morning trade in New York.
The aerospace group said it would provide Dreamliner customers with updated delivery schedules after completing an evaluation of 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 profit margins squeezed by high fuel prices.
Boeing says it has received nearly 900 orders for the aircraft from more than 55 customers worldwide.
Repeated problems with the Dreamliner have become an embarrassment for Boeing and a source of frustration for customers, opening the manufacturer up to demands for compensation.
All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan's second-largest carrier, was the first customer for the brand-new Dreamliner, ordering 50 planes for about six billion dollars in April 2004.
Japanese carriers buy almost exclusively from Boeing. And Japanese heavy industrial firms are contributing 35 percent of the construction of the Dreamliner, which uses high-tech plastic composites instead of aluminum.
The Chicago-based company said it was determining the financial impact of the Dreamliner delay and would incorporate that into updated financial and "overall airplane delivery guidance" that would be released at a later date.
"We're laser-focused on what needs to be done to prepare for first flight," Pat Shanahan, 787 program vice president, said in the statement.
"We will overcome this set of circumstances as we have others in the past, and we understand clearly what needs to be done moving forward."
According to Boeing, the 787 will use 20 percent less fuel than today's airplanes of comparable size.
In a production departure, Boeing has relieved heavily on outsourced labor in the US and abroad for the assembly of four 787 test jets at its plant in Everett, Washington state.