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Dreamliner delayed again
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The biggest challenge for Boeing and Airbus may not be fighting for more orders, but getting planes off production lines in time to meet demand.


Boeing yesterday said the inaugural flight of its much-anticipated B787 would be delayed by up to three months to the end of the second quarter due to supply chain problems and slow progress on the assembly line.


The delay means Boeing will not be able to start delivering the plane until early 2009, rather than late 2008.


This is the third time Boeing has announced delays for the hot-selling airplane.


The B787's maiden flight was originally planned for August 2007 and was then postponed to late September 2007. Boeing said in October 2007 that the flight would again be postponed to between mid-November and mid-December and that delivery to its first customer, Japan's All Nippon Airways Co, would be delayed by six months to the end of 2008.


"The fundamental design and technologies of the 787 remain sound. However, we continue to be challenged by start-up issues in our factory and in our extended global supply chain," Scott Carson, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement.


The B787, also called the Dreamliner, has been the most successful new jet launch in history with 817 orders, including 60 from five Chinese airlines - Air China, China Eastern Airlines, China Southern Airlines, Hainan Airlines and Shanghai Airlines.


Boeing China yesterday declined to say when China would receive its first B787 after the latest delay.


Air China was originally scheduled to receive two B787s in 2008, with one delivered in June. The aircraft will be used on its European or US routes. The Chinese flag carrier has ordered 15 B787s.


An unnamed official from the Beijing-based carrier yesterday said the airline was capable of adjusting its fleet to the delay.


"The B787 delay is unlikely to have a big impact on Chinese airlines' expansion given the relatively small number," said Wu Yucun, an aviation analyst with Shenzhen-based Lianhe Securities.


Boeing builds its commercial airplanes in Seattle and has outsourced an unprecedented amount of the B787 program - including design and production - to manufacturers around the world. It wrestles with complex product development in terms of technology and program management.


Airbus' flagship A380 superjumbo was delayed by nearly two years.


(China Daily January 18, 2008)

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