WASHINGTON, Jun 23 – Boeing said on Tuesday it would delay the first flight and delivery of its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft, the latest postponement in a program seen as a key to the aerospace giant\’s future.
Boeing said a new schedule for the first flight and delivery would be available in "several weeks" and that in the interim the 787 team will continue with other aspects of testing.
Boeing said in a statement the delay was "due to a need to reinforce an area within the side-of-body section of the aircraft."
It added that the need "was identified during the recent regularly scheduled tests on the full-scale static test airplane."
Scott Carson, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said the postponement was the correct decision.
"Consideration was given to a temporary solution that would allow us to fly as scheduled, but we ultimately concluded that the right thing was to develop, design, test and incorporate a permanent modification to the localized area requiring reinforcement," Carson said.
"Structural modifications like these are not uncommon in the development of new airplanes, and this is not an issue related to our choice of materials or the assembly and installation work of our team."
Boeing had planned for the much-delayed Dreamliner to have its maiden flight by June 30 on a schedule that puts delivery of the plane to first customer, All Nippon Airways (ANA), in the first quarter of 2010.
The Boeing statement said a preliminary analysis indicated that flight test could proceed this month as planned, and last week Boeing officials said the maiden flight was on schedule.
"However, after further testing and consideration of possible modified flight test plans, the decision was made late last week that first flight should instead be postponed until productive flight testing could occur," the company said.
The company set a news conference for 1400 GMT to announce details of the latest delay.
This marked the fifth delay for the Dreamliner, already nearly two years behind the initial schedule.
Boeing says it has 865 orders from 56 airlines for the cutting-edge plane, claiming it is the "fastest-selling all-new jetliner in aviation history."
The 787 Dreamliner is the company\’s first new model in more than a decade and features 50 percent plastic composites, compared with 12 percent on its 777s, helping lower fuel consumption.
According to Boeing, the 787 will use 20 percent less fuel than similarly sized airplanes, reducing emissions by a similar amount.
Plagued by problems from a complex international production system and a two-month machinists strike last year, the Dreamliner\’s delays have irked customers and resulted in order cancellations.