EVERETT – The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday certified Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner to carry passengers, ending more than 20 months of flight testing and analysis.
The move clears the way for Boeing to deliver the first jet to All Nippon Airways of Japan on Sept. 25, three years and four months later than originally planned.
“Despite the fact that this airplane might be a little late, this will be an airplane that changes the game,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Jim Albaugh said at a ceremony Friday morning in Everett marking the FAA certification. He said he thinks customers will forgive Boeing for the delay once they receive the planes.
First delivery is only the beginning of a challenging period for Boeing as it attempts to ramp up production from two Dreamliners a month to 10 a month in the next two years.
Even as new 787s roll out, hundreds of mechanics and engineers in Everett will remain sidetracked from ongoing production as they slowly rework approximately 40 Dreamliners assembled earlier but still in need of major modification before turning the keys over to customers.
Boeing has not specified how many 787s it will deliver by the end of 2011. Earlier this year, it had indicated it might deliver between 12 and 20; the number is now expected to be considerably less than a dozen.
Wall Street analysts have estimated that the 787’s delays and technical issues have swelled development costs to somewhere between $12 billion and $18 billion on top of the $5 billion Boeing originally budgeted.
Still, the FAA’s formal thumbs-up – which was accompanied by certification from the European Aviation Safety Agency – is a relief. Even a few jets being delivered will free up space on the Everett flight line and allow Boeing to begin to see tangible progress.