Boeing Co. (BA:US) affirmed the schedule for the service debut of its 787-9 Dreamliner, a stretched version of the new jet, after American Airlines again said its first delivery had been delayed past 2014 by “production issues.”
The 787-9 is still due to reach its first customer in 2014, and the jet is set for its maiden flight in 2013’s second half, said Marc Birtel, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing.
The Dreamliner is the first airliner built chiefly of plastic composites rather than the traditional aluminum. The 787-8’s late-2011 commercial debut followed more than three years of delays because of the new materials and production processes. Boeing said last month that work was under way on the 787-9, which is 20 feet (6 meters) longer than the 787-8 and will carry 16 percent more passengers as far as 8,500 nautical miles (15,700 kilometers).
“Delays that took place earlier in the plane’s development have been resolved and build rates are rising,” said Stephen E. Levenson, a Stifel Nicolaus analyst in New York who recommends buying Boeing shares. “The target rate of 10 per month going into 2014 is still likely.”
AMR Corp. (AAMRQ:US)’s American, which is reorganizing in bankruptcy, mentioned the postponement of its first 787-9 today in a U.S. regulatory filing (AAMRQ:US), as it had in two prior filings dating back to April. When the airline ordered 42 Dreamliners in 2008, deliveries were set to run from 2012 through 2018.
“We are in discussions with Boeing and are working together toward a new delivery schedule,” said Andrea Huguely, an American spokeswoman. She declined to say what production issues led to the delay or comment further on the matter.
Boeing rose 0.2 percent to $73.63 at the close in New York. The shares (BA:US) are little changed this year.
The shorter 787-8, which entered service late last year, can fly as many as 250 people on routes of as long as 8,200 nautical miles. Air New Zealand Ltd. has said it will be the first carrier to operate the bigger 787-9.
American has the right to buy 58 more of the planes. The carrier hasn’t officially placed its order, pending negotiations with its pilots, so it doesn’t appear in Boeing’s order book. The planemaker has set aside delivery slots for the airline.
Boeing has firm orders for 315 of the 787-9s and 523 of the smaller 787-8s, of which it had delivered 26 by Sept. 30, according to its website.
Confidence in the model was shaken in August when Qantas Airways Ltd. canceled an order for 35 787-9s, which it had been slated to begin receiving in mid-2014. The plane got a boost in September when All Nippon Airways Co. added another 11 to its order.
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