Boeing denies airlines’ reports of Dreamliner delays

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

The Boeing Co. battled speculation last week that its 787 would be delayed again after airline customers told the media that their Dreamliner deliveries had slid as much as 10 months.

Dreamliner customers Japan Airlines and Korean Air are expecting delays of three months and 10 months respectively. Japan Airlines told Flightglobal on Nov. 4 that its first 787 delivery had been bumped to June 2011 from March 2011. Korean Air told the publication that it is expecting a delay of 10 months in its 787s.

“Today’s press reports about new 787 delivery timing for several customers appear to be based on the program schedule announced in August,” wrote Lori Gunter, Boeing spokeswoman in an e-mail.

In August, Boeing announced it was pushing back the delivery of its first 787 to All Nippon Airways of Japan by three months to mid-February 2011. Boeing originally planned to deliver its first 787 in May 2008. On Nov. 5, Boeing reaffirmed the February delivery.

Boeing attributed the delay in August to the availability of Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines, which are one of two engines offered on the Dreamliner. During testing this summer, a Trent 1000 engine suffered an uncontained failure on a test bed, meaning it blew up.

On Nov. 4, an Airbus A380, flown by Qantas, also had an uncontained engine failure in which parts of the engine blew out of the cover and into the wing. That engine was Rolls Royce’s Trent 900, in the same series as the 787 model.

Scott Hamilton, an analyst with Leeham Co., said it’s too early to tell whether there is any connection between the failure of the A380’s Trent 900 engine and the problem sustained by the 787’s Trent 1000 engine. Boeing has been working with Rolls on a fix for the Trent 1000.

Both Japan Airlines and Korean Air have ordered 787s with General Electric’s GEnx engines. Boeing’s Gunter noted that the company will be using some of the data collected from 787 test flights with Rolls engines to help certify its 787s with GE engines.

“We work with our customers on delivery schedules of individual airplanes across all models. Delivery dates can change for a variety of reasons,” Gunter wrote regarding the carriers’ comments on delays.

After obtaining certification on its 787 from the Federal Aviation Administration, Boeing will have to do some rework to the 787s already produced to ensure those jets meet the approved specifications.

Boeing’s Gunter declined to comment on how much rework will be involved for those aircraft. Boeing has several 787s parked at Paine Field in Everett.

Hamilton doesn’t see just one problem as the cause behind the 10-month delay expected by Korean Air.

“It’s the accumulative effect of all the previous delays,” he said.

Also Nov. 5, engine maker Pratt &Whitney filed a patent-infringement complaint against Rolls-Royce in the United States and England. Pratt alleges it developed technology used in the Trent 900 and 1000 engines. However, analyst Hamilton said the complaint won’t affect Dreamliner deliveries.

Boeing’s shares dropped $1.51 to $69.76 in after-hours trading Nov. 5.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.