WASHINGTON (AFP) — Boeing confirmed Tuesday its new 787 Dreamliner aircraft is on track for its first flight and deliveries in 2008, saying problems that forced a prior delay had been largely resolved.
The Boeing Company said the revised 787 schedule, including a first flight at the end of the first quarter and first deliveries in November or December, was expected to be met.
"The schedule we revealed in October is unchanged," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and chief executive Scott Carson during a conference call.
Carson also reiterated the company's objective of delivering 109 of the fuel-efficient aircraft by the end of 2009.
The US aerospace giant is battling Europe's Airbus for supremacy in civil aviation, and has profited from Airbus's delay of its new super-jumbo A380 plane.
In early August, Boeing announced a delay in the planned first flight of the 787 citing problems in assembling the first of the aircraft, including parts shortages and difficulties in software and systems integration.
By mid-October the aerospace giant announced that it was delaying its first delivery of the 787 by six months to November or December 2008.
Boeing said Tuesday that it is finalizing structures and systems and is on track for the "significant milestone" of "power on" on the first aircraft around the end of January 2008.
Pat Shanahan, vice president and general manager of the 787 program, said Boeing has already agreed the requirements for type certification with the Federal Aviation Administration.
"This is the first time the company and the FAA have agreed on all the requirements prior to the first flight," Shanahan said. "The next step is demonstrating compliance."
Shanahan took over from Mike Bair in October, shortly after the company announced six month delays in first deliveries of the 787. Bair had been responsible for all aspects of the 787 program since its launch in 2004.
"We are now 100 percent complete on the basic design of the 787," Shanahan said in the conference call, adding "there was still some work to do" in weight reduction of the new plane, Boeing's first new model in 13 years.
Up to 50 percent of the primary structure of the plane -- including the fuselage and wing -- are made of composites such as carbon-fiber, which reduce its weight and make the aircraft more fuel-efficient.
Testing of the composite components is 80 percent completed, he said.
Shanahan, who was vice president and general manager of Missile Defense Systems for the company before being named head of the 787 program, said his tema had produced a detailed understanding of the process and were integrating a production system that includes dozens of suppliers from around the world.
He gave the example of finding 37 change boards authorizing changes to suppliers when he joined the 787 program. "We now have one," he said.
Boeing, which wants to build some 2,000 Dreamliners over the next two decades, maintains the aircraft will consume 20 percent less fuel than similar-sized planes already on the market.
To date, Boeing has 762 orders for the new fuel-efficient aircraft from 52 customers. The first delivery is scheduled for the Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA).
The Dreamliner comes in three models for both medium and long-haul flights with a seating capacity of between 210 to 330.
Able to fly up to 15,750 kilometers (9,700 miles) without refueling, it could easily fly between New York and Manila, or Moscow and Sao Paulo, routes so far only doable by bigger planes such as Boeing's 777 or 747.
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