Boeing announced on Wednesday that it was delaying the first flight and deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner because of continued supply-chain problems.
The first flight is now scheduled for the second quarter instead of March, and deliveries are now expected to begin in early 2009 instead of late this year.
“The fundamental design and technologies of the 787 remain sound,” Scott Carson, the president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement. “However, we continue to be challenged by start-up issues in our factory and in our extended global supply chain.”
Mr. Carson said that while progress has been made on the assembly of the first plane, the pace at which jobs are being completed has not improved enough to stay on schedule.
The company has 817 of the fuel-efficient planes on order, valued at more than $100 billion.
The 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 Boeing will suffer defections. “Where are they going to defect to?” Brian Studioso, an analyst at CreditSights, said before the announcement, 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,” he 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.
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 next 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.