CNN, LONDON, England -- Until this week, Boeing's 787 Dreamliner had been living up to its name. Orders had been flooding in, the aircraft was packed with technological firsts, it promised to carry its passengers faster and further and use 20 per cent less fuel to cut carbon emissions.
But the dream turned nightmare this week, when Boeing announced the 787 would arrive six months late.
The delay, says Boeing, is not a result of structural or design problems. The issue instead comes down to assembly issues and managing the project's complex supply chain.
The U.S. plane manufacturer has outsourced 70 per cent of the plane's components. With parts coming from around the world to be assembled at its Washington State base, the airline has been dependent on everything coming together at the same time.
When the 787 was officially launched in July, only a mock-up was on display. And last month, Boeing pushed its first test flight back to the end of this year, citing challenges with out-of-sequence production work as a result of parts shortages and problems with software and systems integration activities.
The first test flight is now anticipated in spring 2008. And its first customer, All Nippon Airways, will receive its first delivery in late November or December 2008.
"While we have made some progress over the past several weeks completing work on our early production airplanes and improving parts availability across the production system, the pace of that progress has not been sufficient to support our previous plans for first delivery or first flight," said Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
As much as 50 percent of the Dreamliner is manufactured from carbon fibre, including the wings and fuselage, which is formed from one piece, making it more stable and lighter than aluminum used by other commercial jets.
Boeing designed the 787 believing that more passengers will want smaller jets for point-to-point travel, rather than flights to major airports that the A380 is designed for. As it says, it brings big-jet ranges to mid-size airplanes.
Passengers can also expect to enjoy larger windows, lower air pressure to reduce dehydration, and extra details such as infrared sensors that open trash lids and flush lavatories.
This July, at the launch, the head of the 787 program, Mike Bair told CNN's Richard Quest they were on track, unlike rival Airbus whose A380 is two years overdue and £1 billion dollars over budget.
Shares fell following the announcement. But analysts said delay was a bout of turbulence rather than full-blown disaster.
But if delays continue, the market may not be so tolerant, said financial journalist, Robert Miller. "This was going to arrive in time for the Beijing Games. These are important milestones. At the moment the A380 has pulled in fantastic crowds and the Dreamliner is going to be the same. Any more delays and Boeing is going to have big problems." E-mail to a friend
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