has again altered its schedule for the long-delayed 787, saying Thursday the airplane will now have its first flight in the second quarter of 2009 and its initial delivery in the first quarter of 2010.
The new dates reflect the setbacks caused by the recent 58-day strike by the International Association of Machinists, as well as the need to replace fasteners in early-production models, Boeing said.
"Our industry team has made progress with structural testing, systems hardware qualification and production, but we must adjust our schedule for these two unexpected disruptions," said Scott Carson, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a prepared statement.
The first 787 delivery was once planned for mid-2008. By Sept. 6, when the strike began, the schedule put the first delivery in the third quarter of 2009 and the first flight late in the fourth quarter of this year.
Boeing said it is evaluating what the delay will mean for its customers. But the potential impact has certainly declined as airlines cut back on capacity as a result of the worldwide recession. While the world is still hungry for aircraft, particularly fuel-efficient jets such as the 787, the appetite has clearly diminished.
That trend was evident Tuesday during an investor presentation by executives of
, which became the world's largest airline following its October merger with Northwest.
Northwest is the U.S. launch customer for the 787, with firm orders for 18 aircraft. But CEO Richard Anderson noted that "we don't know where the 787 is right now in terms of deliveries." He added that the company doesn't "have the capital for that in our three-year plan."
Anderson also said Delta has no interest in the long-standing industry practice of announcing large aircraft orders, often seen as a sign of faith in the future.
"We are not going to place large fleet orders for the sake of placing a large fleet order," he said. "This industry has to make investments based on demonstrated returns, not just on shiny airplanes."
Meanwhile, Delta executives said older aircraft, including the MD-88s and DC-9s in its fleet, look a lot more attractive when fuel prices are low. As Executive Vice President Glen Hauenstein said: "Yesterday's trash is tomorrow's treasure."