More Delays for Boeing's Dreamliner
Boeing’s great success in selling its 787 Dreamliner — it has 817 of the fuel-efficient planes on order, valued at more than $100 billion — is turning to a period of frustration.
On Wednesday, the company confirmed an earlier report that it had another delay in the plane’s production, which will push delivery into 2009. The original delivery date had been May.
Boeing said there would be no material impact on its earnings forecast.
This delay could frustrate the expansion plans of some big international airlines and potentially force Boeing to pay penalties to customers.
Still, it seems unlikely that the aircraft maker would suffer defections. “Where are they going to defect to?” Brian Studioso, an analyst at CreditSights, said, noting that deliveries of the closest rival plane to the 787, the Airbus 350, are not expected to begin until 2013.
“That’s in Boeing’s favor right now,” Mr. Studioso said.
Production of the 787 includes an ambitious plan under which suppliers preassemble much of the plane and ship it to the Seattle area for final assembly. The method was meant to allow Boeing to build the 787 at a faster pace.
The company had watched while its rival, Airbus, struggled with assembling the mammoth 380 superjumbo jet and with completing a design for the 350. Now, the focus is turning toward Boeing’s problems, as industry efforts to create fuel-efficient and technologically advanced aircraft run into the realities of manufacturing.
Customers would like to get the bad news all at once, not in dribs and drabs, Mr. Studioso, the analyst, said. “You saw a slide in Airbus’s reputation when they came out with one delay or another. It’s not good.”
On a sharply lower market day, Boeing shares tumbled nearly 5 percent Tuesday, to $77.86, on the news, first reported on The Wall Street Journal’s Web site. The shares had been as high as $107.83 in the last year, but have been battered by the 787 delays.
In September, Boeing said that it would delay the 787’s first test flight by three months, but that deliveries — the first plane was to go to All Nippon Airways of Japan in May — would not be delayed.
But the following month, Boeing said deliveries would be delayed by six months, pushing the first delivery to December 2008. It said it expected to conduct the first test flight in March 2008. The company also brought in a new executive to oversee the 787 program.
Last month, providing an update, Boeing stood by the October assessment and said it would be able to deliver 109 of the planes in 2008, a startling pace in making such a big plane.
The problems have included a shortage of some fasteners and other parts used to assemble parts of the 787 and delays in some software.
Boeing sent its own workers out to suppliers around the world, hoping to speed things up, then bypassed some of the preassembly process and simply had suppliers ship their work in pieces to Boeing.
Ahead of the announcement, it was not clear whether Boeing encountered new problems, or delays in solving existing ones. A spokesman, Peter Conte, declined to comment.
Northwest Airlines has 18 787s on order and Continental Airlines has ordered 25. United States carriers have been adding international flights, for which demand is strong and there is less low-cost competition, and reducing domestic flights.