SEATTLE — The first delivery of Boeing’s new 787 jetliner may slip into early 2011 because of inspections and changing instruments on the flight test aircraft, the head of the program said today.
Scott Fancher, general manager of the program for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told reporters in a teleconference that Boeing still intends to deliver its first 787 to Japan’s ANA by the end of the year. He said that “as a cautionary note,” Boeing is warning that the delivery might be extended a few weeks into 2011.
If so, it would be another in a long series of delays on the 787 program, many due to problems with components built by suppliers around the globe that ship huge sections of the plane to be assembled at Boeing’s Everett, Wash., plant. Boeing originally planned to deliver the first 787 in 2008.
Fancher said Boeing needed a series of changes in test instrumentation on the flight test planes. That and the need for additional inspections “stacked up” and reduced the time margin built into the testing schedule. He said Boeing is “strongly focused” on completing the tests and getting the first plane delivered in December.
Boeing recently halted flight tests on the first 787s after finding some of them had improperly installed parts in the horizontal stabilizer, a smaller wing on the aircraft’s tail. The problem has been corrected on all five flight-test planes now flying, and the fix is going into production jets where necessary, Fancher said.
Boeing plans to fly a test 787 to next week’s Farnborough International Airshow in the U.K. for its international debut.
Fancher stressed that the issues affecting the test schedule do not involve the design of the airplane and that Boeing is pleased with its performance. But “we’ve seen some inspections with quality issues that have taken longer than planned,” he said, including the horizontal stabilizer inspections.
The instrument modifications involve special sensors and data-gathering devices aboard the test planes and not standard flight instruments or systems aboard planes, Fancher said.
He declined to go into detail about the reasons for the possible delay or to give an exact time, other than it would be weeks rather than months.
Fancher spoke shortly after Boeing released its 2010 Current Market Outlook, which forecasts that the global airline industry will need 30,900 new jets worth $3.6 trillion between now and 2029.
Boeing shares fell 34 cents to $64.41 in afternoon trading.