In a fresh setback for the beleaguered 787 Dreamliner program, Boeing Co. early Friday announced a new delay that will push first delivery of the plane into the middle of the first quarter of next year.
The latest snafu involves British engine supplier Rolls-Royce PLC. Rolls is one of two firms selected by Boeing to provide engines on the new, carbon-fiber composite Dreamliner wide-body jet. According to a statement released by Boeing early Friday, the latest delay “follows an assessment of the availability of an engine needed for the final phases of flight test this fall.”
Boeing has maintained all year that the first production Dreamliner would be delivered to launch customer All Nippon Airways Co. by the end of 2010, but in the past six weeks Boeing executives have been publicly bracing customers and investors for another delay.
Rolls-Royce said Friday it was working with Boeing to support its test-flight program.
“We have been informed by Boeing that the currently planned dates for Trent 1000 engine deliveries will now not support their latest flight test program requirements,” said a spokesman for the U.K.-based engine maker.
“We are working closely with Boeing to expedite delivery in support of their program schedule,” he added.
In a statement, ANA said the delay was regrettable but added, “However, we trust that the time will be used to deliver the best possible aircraft in the shortest possible time frame.”
Boeing said the schedule revision won’t affect its financial guidance.
Boeing has also been grappling since June with manufacturing flaws found in the plane’s tail area. The problematic components are manufactured in Italy by Alenia Aeronautica SpA, a major Boeing supplier. Those flaws have required significant inspections on the fleet of six Dreamliner test planes, as well as a number of production airplanes that have already been built and sit outside Seattle awaiting their engines.
Compounding the Dreamliner’s troubles was a major failure of a Rolls Royce test engine in England earlier this month. Rolls and General Electric Co. are providing the engines for the 787. Early customers, including ANA, have selected the Rolls engines for their aircraft.
On Aug. 2, a 787 engine being tested at a Rolls facility suffered a major “uncontained” failure, which did significant damage to the engine and the casing that houses it. The company has said it has detected the problem that caused the failure and will correct the issue before shipping early batches of the engines to Boeing’s final assembly plant near Seattle.
Until now, both Rolls and Boeing have said the engine failure had not impacted the Dreamliner delivery timetable.
The Dreamliner is already nearly three years behind schedule and it has cost Boeing billions of dollars in penalties to its airline customers as well as damaging the company’s credibility in the marketplace. Most customers, however, have chosen to stick with the Chicago-based plane-maker through the 787 difficulties. There are more than 850 of the twin-engine wide-body jets on order from 56 customers world-wide.