AFP - Boeing said Thursday its much-delayed 787 Dreamliner is expected to undergo its first test flight by the end of the year, with first delivery pushed back to the fourth quarter of 2010.
In late June Boeing announced a fifth delay in the 787 Dreamliner program to fix a structural problem on the side of the aircraft.
Delays in the Dreamliner program, initially set for first deliveries in the first half of 2008, have triggered order cancellations from several airlines.
"The first flight of the 787 Dreamliner is expected by the end of 2009 and first delivery is expected to occur in the fourth quarter of 2010," Boeing said in a statement.
Boeing said the new schedule reflected a previously announced need to reinforce an area within the side-of-body section of the aircraft and an additional several weeks needed to reduce flight test and certification risk.
The company projected a production rate of 10 airplanes per month in late 2013.
"This new schedule provides us the time needed to complete the remaining work necessary to put the 787's game-changing capability in the hands of our customers," Boeing chairman, president and chief executive Jim McNerney said in the statement.
"The design details and implementation plan are nearly complete, and the team is preparing airplanes for modification and testing," he said.
The long-haul 787 aircraft is seen as key to the US aerospace giant's future.
Boeing said it has determined the 787 program is still on track to generate profits, based on the revised schedule and other estimate updates.
But it said the first three Dreamliner airplanes to be used in the initial test flights had been modified so much they would not have commercial market value beyond the development effort.
The three test-flight airplanes will be reclassified from program inventory to research and development expense, resulting in an estimated pre-tax charge of 2.5 billion dollars, or 2.21 dollars per share, against third-quarter results which are to be announced in October.
"This charge will have no impact on the company's cash outlook going forward," Boeing said.
The 787 Dreamliner program has been plagued by setbacks due in part to the complexity of the next-generation aircraft and its parts construction scattered across the globe.
The 787 Dreamliner is the company's first new model in more than a decade and features 50 percent plastic composites, compared with 12 percent on its 777s, helping lower fuel consumption.
A two-month machinists strike that ended in early November also pushed back the calendar.