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Boeing Says It Will Meet Delayed 787 Schedule

Boeingsaid Tuesday its troubled 787 Dreamliner program remains on track to meet the revised schedule the company set in October.

The plane is still set for first test flight by the end of the first quarter next year and first delivery late November or December 2008, said Scott Carson, chief executive of Boeing's commercial airplanes unit, on a conference call.

Boeing still plans to deliver 109 of the aircraft by the end of 2009, he added, in the face of broad skepticism in the industry.

Two months ago, Boeing delayed first delivery of the new plane by at least six months from its original target of May 2008, citing a range of production problems for the revolutionary, carbon-fiber aircraft.

The move disappointed customers and unsettled investors, echoing delays suffered by rival Airbus on its A380 superjumbo.

The plane maker has had problems getting all the 787's parts -- which are being manufactured around the world -- to its assembly plant near Seattle in completed form. It has also been hurt by an acute and unexpected shortage of bolts to hold the plane together.

The lightweight, fuel-efficient plane has been a hit with airlines, notching 762 orders from 52 customers, making it the most successful plane launch in Boeing's history, with an order book worth more than $120 billion at list prices.

But Wall Street analysts and industry insiders doubt that Boeing can keep up with the ambitious production ramp-up that its delivery target suggests.

That target of 109 deliveries by the end of 2009 -- only three short of its original target before production problems came to light -- still stands, said Pat Shanahan, the new head of the 787 program, on his first conference call on the project Tuesday.

"We are making steady progress across the board," said Shanahan, a Boeing veteran who was put in charge of the 787 program in October after original program chief Mike Bair was moved aside in the wake of delays.

Both Shanahan and Carson said the production schedule was "aggressive" but possible to achieve. They gave no details on exactly how or by what increments Boeing would increase production to hit its target.

The immediate focus on the program is now "power on" for the first airplane, Shanahan said, meaning the moment when the aircraft's power systems are switched on, which will give engineers a better idea how close the plane is to completion.

Turning on the plane's power systems is scheduled for the end of January, Shanahan said.

Boeing's shares fell 69 cents to $91.95 on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday. The stock has fallen 15 percent from the all-time high in July, dragged down by concerns over the 787 program.

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