Boeing is confident that production of its new carbon-composite 787 Dreamliner will not be delayed by the wiring problems which held back rival Airbus' A380 superjumbo, as the debut of the U.S. plane maker's first new jet in more than a decade nears.
"We're not going to have that problem," said Mike Bair, the chief of Boeing's 787 program, at a Friday briefing with media in Seattle, two days before the first 787 is rolled out of the company's Everett, Washington, plant.
The wiring on Boeing's new plane is a "dramatically simpler package," Bair said.
Airbus, a unit of European aerospace group EADS, had to delay production of its giant A380 up to two years because of differences in the way miles of wiring were handled in factories in France and Germany.
Boeing, which is assembling parts made around the world at its Everett plant, is being closely watched by customers, competitors and Wall Street analysts for signs that it also will stumble on production problems on the 787, potentially causing costly delays.
So far, the 787 is on schedule, with the first test flight slated for late August or September, according to Bair. He declined to name a specific date for the first test flight, saying the plane would fly only when it's ready.
Bair said he has a "high degree of confidence" Boeing will get the 787 through a compressed eight-month test flight schedule, although he acknowledged that some unforeseen problems will inevitably crop up.
The proposed test flight schedule is much shorter than the 11-month flight-test schedule for Boeing's last new plane, the 777 minijumbo.
Bair said the first plane off the production line, which will be unveiled on Sunday, still has 1,000 temporary fasteners, or bolts, holding parts together, due to a shortage of fasteners in the industry.
Permanent fasteners will be installed to replace the temporary ones over the next month or so before the first test flight, Bair said.
He added that Boeing's plane, set for first delivery next May, has a great advantage over Airbus' rival A350 XWB (extra wide body) plane, which is not scheduled to enter service until 2013.
"We're going to have a leg-up for quite some time," said Bair.
As of Friday, Boeing had 642 orders for 787s from 46 different customers, making it the plane maker's most successful plane launch ever.