Boeing announced on Thursday that the first flight of its 787 Dreamliner is now expected by the end of the year, with first delivery anticipated for the fourth quarter of 2010.
The Dreamliner has been grounded by a series of delays since its rollout in 2007. Boeing said the latest schedule change is due to its need to reinforce an area within the side-of-body section of the plane. The company also plans to add several weeks to its schedule to reduce risks in the flight test and the aircraft's certification.
"This new schedule provides us the time needed to complete the remaining work necessary to put the 787's game-changing capability in the hands of our customers," said Boeing CEO Jim McNerney. "The design details and implementation plan are nearly complete, and the team is preparing airplanes for modification and testing."
Boeing said the team reinforcing the side-of-body area has finished initial testing and is finalizing the design of new fittings to ensure structural integrity. The first 787 test airplane and the static test unit have been prepared for the new fittings, with installation expected to begin in the next few weeks. The test that discovered this issue will be repeated and the results analyzed before the first flight takes off.
Boeing revealed the Dreamliner in July 2007 to a huge, excited throng of thousands. At that time, the company said the aircraft would take its first flight in late 2007 and carry its first passengers in spring 2008.
But delays quickly set in. Boeing was soon forced to revise its initial estimates, saying first flight would occur in the fourth quarter of 2008 with first delivery in the third quarter of 2009. Then in December 2008, Boeing said a machinist's strike had caused yet another delay, with first flight reset to the second quarter of 2009 and delivery in the first quarter of 2010.
Once the Dreamliner gets off the ground, Boeing expects to manufacture 10 planes a month by the end of 2013.