Are the tests over for 787?

The Boeing Co. expected to wrap up flight testing on its 787 Dreamliner last weekend, clearing the way for regulatory approval on the new jet.

But, on Tuesday, Boeing still wasn’t ready to confirm that flight testing is complete.

“We will announce the end of flight test when we’re sure

we’ve completed it,” said Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter.

Airlines and aviation enthusiasts are watching Boeing’s every move on its 787, a jet that is expected to use 20 percent less fuel than similarly sized aircraft. After more than three years of delays, Boeing intends to deliver the first Dreamliner next month to Japan’s All Nippon Airways.

Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing’s commercial airplanes division, said last Thursday that the company had just 24 hours of flight testing left to do on the Dreamliner. He predicted that Boeing would complete those tests last weekend.

After Boeing finishes flight tests, the company will submit documentation to the Federal Aviation Administration for its approval. Japan’s aviation regulatory agency also must sign off on the 787 before ANA can fly the jet commercially.

On Tuesday, ANA launched an “I heart 787” photo contest, offering the winner two tickets on the carrier’s first flight of the Dreamliner. ANA plans to fly the 787 on a special charter trip from Tokyo to Hong Kong. The airline hasn’t announced the date of that flight.

Originally, Boeing planned an eight-month flight test program when it first rolled out its Dreamliner in the summer of 2007. However, flight testing has taken 20 months, following an electrical fire on a test fight, which resulted in engineering changes on 787s. Altogether, Boeing’s fleet of 787 test planes has logged more than 4,800 hours in more than 1,700 flights.

Also on Tuesday, Bernstein Research suggested in a note to investors that Boeing’s 787 program won’t turn a profit until 1,000 jets have been delivered. After that, Boeing’s 787 should post a gross margin of about 20 percent, Bernstein Research noted. The research and investment firm also doubts Boeing’s ability to meet its goal of delivering 10 787s monthly by late 2013, saying Boeing won’t do that until late 2014.

Key to speeding up 787 production will be Boeing’s assembly site in South Carolina. The National Labor Relations Board has sued Boeing over its decision to open a second 787 line in South Carolina, calling Boeing’s actions “retaliation” against its Washington state Machinists for strikes in the state.

Boeing officials have declined to provide many details about the 787’s production ramp-up. Company officials say they’ll comment on the Dreamliner’s profitability after the first jet is delivered.

The company has 827 orders for its Dreamliner. Boeing’s shares closed at $62.23 on Tuesday, down 47 cents.

To enter ANA’s photo contest, go to its Facebook page at

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