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Boeing’s 787 May Suffer Further Delay, Japan Air Says

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Boeing Co., whose 787 Dreamliner has already been delayed three times, may postpone deliveries by a further six months as it struggles with production woes and the legacy of a strike, Japan Airlines Corp. said.

The airline, which is due to be the 787’s second operator with a contract for 35 of the planes, has been informed of the delay and hasn’t received a new schedule, Tokyo-based spokesman Stephen Pearlman said today in a telephone interview. Boeing’s spokesman in the city, Takahide Miyatsu did not return calls.

The 787 was due to enter service with All Nippon Airways Co. in May this year after Boeing’s shortest-ever flight-test program, arriving as airlines clamored for more-efficient planes to counter higher fuel prices. The Dreamliner has instead been beset by parts shortages, hitches with suppliers and a recent strike, setting Boeing further behind in its goal of surpassing Airbus SAS.

“It’s like deja vu, all these things coming back to haunt us — fasteners, flight-testing concerns and further delivery delays,” Rob Stallard, an analyst at Macquarie Research Equities in New York, said in an interview yesterday.

The first Dreamliner was rolled out of the hangar in July 2007 and should have had its first flight a month later. Boeing has said all its programs will face at least a day-for-day delay from the eight-week machinists’ strike that ended Nov. 2 and kept the 787 from flying for the first time this quarter under a schedule revised after earlier delays.

No New Schedule

First customer All Nippon said in September that Boeing had told it before the strike to expect the plane in August 2009, which would have been 15 months late. The airline hasn’t been given a new schedule, spokesman Kazuyuki Imanishi said today.

Japan Air, initially due to get its first Dreamliner this August, said in September that the first delivery would be in October 2009 and it would receive four or five planes a year until March 2017. The carrier had originally planned to take delivery of its final plane by the end of March 2014.

Chicago-based Boeing, led by Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney, has lost about 60 percent of its market value since the first 787 delay in October 2007. The stock rose 2 percent to $41.68 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading.

While Airbus has also suffered program delays, the Toulouse, France-based company’s 525-seat A380 superjumbo successfully completed a test flight three months after its roll-out and encountered problems only once it entered production. The world’s largest planemaker, a unit of European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co., also had to redesign its A350 model, pushing production back to 2013 from as early as 2010.

New Techniques

Boeing is using new carbon composites instead of aluminum in much of the 787, adding complications to a new manufacturing process. Suppliers in the U.S., Italy and Japan are supposed to build 70 percent of the plane and to ship completed sections to Boeing’s Everett, Washington, factory for final assembly.

The different languages and time zones involved hampered communication and stymied Boeing’s ability to fix problems that cropped up, Joseph Campbell, an analyst with Barclay’s Plc in New York, said in an interview yesterday.

“This program now has reached a level of delays and things going wrong that are really frustrating and beyond expectations” for both observers and long-time Boeing engineers, said Campbell, who has analyzed the company since the early 1980s. “It’s out of character for Boeing. Normally Boeing prides itself on being on- time and will overrun its budget in order to be on time.”

Russian airline S7 said it hasn’t yet heard from Boeing about its Dreamliner orders.

“We’re far from the first customer, so we’re not worried,” spokesman Kirill Alyavdin said. The carrier is due to take delivery of the first of 15 787s in 2014.

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