法新社╱盧瑞珠 2008-11-05 08:35
Boeing delays first 787 Dreamliner flight
by Veronica Smith Veronica Smith – 2 hrs 13 mins ago
WASHINGTON (AFP) – Boeing Tuesday postponed the first test flight of its new 787 Dreamliner because of problems with fasteners and a crippling 58-day machinists strike.
The Dreamliner's "first flight is not going to be accomplished" in the fourth quarter as planned, Yvonne Leach, a Boeing spokeswoman for the Dreamliner program, told AFP.
The company is assessing the program in light of the fastener problems and a 58-day machinists strike that ended Sunday and will announce a new Dreamliner launch timetable when that that process is completed, she said.
Leach said company inspectors found that about three percent of the fasteners used to hold together sections and parts of the new plane were incorrectly sized.
Some of them were too short and some were too long, so they did not properly hold together sections and parts, she said.
Boeing is assembling four 787 test jets at its plant in Everett, Washington.
In a production departure, Boeing has relieved heavily on outside contractors for the 787, drawing criticism from labor unions about outsourced jobs.
The faulty fastener installations occurred with Boeing's US and foreign structure suppliers for the Dreamliner, Leach said.
Japan's Mitsubishi supplies the wings; Alenia of Italy is building the fuselage, and two US firms, Vought Aircraft Industries and Spirit Aerosystems, are constructing the tail and nose, respectively.
Leach said the fastener problems were being corrected in Everett and by the suppliers, stressing that production problems were a normal part of building aircraft.
Leach said the 58-day machinists strike affected production of the Dreamliner as well as other aircraft "day for day."
Boeing's 27,000 machinists returned to work Sunday after voting by a large majority to accept a federally mediated four-year labor contract.
The strike launched September 6 was estimated by some analysts to have cost the company more than 100 million dollars per day.
Hurt by the strike, Dreamliner delays and a difficult economic environment, Boeing announced in late October that third-quarter net profit fell 38 percent.
The group delivered only 84 aircraft in the July-September period, 35 fewer than scheduled, after delivering 125 in the second quarter and 115 in the first.
It was the fourth time Boeing has delayed the Dreamliner launch. The first deliveries of the 787, initially planned for the first half of 2008, most recently had been pushed back to the third quarter of 2009 due to production difficulties.
The Dreamliner, Boeing's first new model in over a decade, takes advantage of the huge advances made in aviation technology in the past decade, and was designed using high-tech plastic composites instead of aluminum.
According to Boeing, the 787 will use 20 percent less fuel than today's airplanes of comparable size.
Boeing says it has received nearly 900 orders to date for the 787 Dreamliner from more than 55 customers worldwide.
Analysts at Jefferies & Co. said the latest production issues should be addressed "within a reasonable period of time."
"The appropriate fasteners are available, so there should not be any further delay beyond the inspection and reassembly process," they wrote in a client note.
Shares in Boeing closed 1.46 percent higher at 53.62 dollars amid a powerful rally as Americans voted in presidential and congressional elections.
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