CHICAGO — Boeing Co. said Tuesday that its schedule for the 787 Dreamliner remains on track and it does not envision further delays in the much-ballyhooed airplane.
Boeing officials reaffirmed the latest schedule in a conference call updating the 787 program's status, two months after it pushed back flight testing and initial deliveries of the aircraft by six months.
Many industry observers ultimately anticipate additional delays, which are common with new airplane launches.
Scott Carson, head of Boeing's Seattle-based commercial airplane manufacturing division, acknowledged that the company still is "ironing out significant supply-chain wrinkles," but said there are no revisions to the latest schedule.
"The plan we announced in October for the 787 is unchanged, to fly the first airplane around the end of the first quarter of 2008 and begin deliveries in late November or December time frame, and to deliver 109 airplanes in 2009," Carson said. "That is our team's commitment, and we intend to perform to that commitment."
The first flight test had been scheduled for early fall.
The 787, Boeing's first newly designed jet since airlines started flying the 777 in 1995, will be the world's first large commercial airplane made mostly of carbon-fiber composites, which are lighter, more durable and less prone to corrosion than more traditional aluminum.
Boeing has said the 787 will be cheaper to maintain and will offer better fuel efficiency and more passenger comforts than comparable planes flying today.
But the unprecedented plan to assemble a jet from components manufactured largely by other companies ran into early snags when the outsourcing led to a variety of problems involving contractors in numerous countries and U.S. locales, including a fuselage-making operation in North Charleston.
Boeing also was dogged by shortages of fasteners and other small parts that hold large sections of the plane together.
Pat Shanahan, who replaced Mike Bair as vice president and general manager of the Everett, Wash.-based 787 program in October as a result of the production problems, said Boeing is "making progress against our plans."
He said parts shortages are declining and availability of fasteners has improved, enabling installation work to accelerate.
"There's no doubt our ramp-up is aggressive, but throughout this effort we have not found any fundamental flaws in our production system design that would lead me to believe it's not doable," Shanahan said.
The Lowcountry is home to 787 suppliers Vought Aircraft Industries Inc. and Global Aeronautica, which is a joint venture between Vought and Italy's Alenia Aeronautica.
The companies make, modify and assemble large portions of the Dreamliner fuselage at Charleston International Airport.
For now, Shanahan said, Boeing is still anticipating that parts manufactured in Italy will arrive in North Charleston "incomplete" because of unresolved problems getting fasteners.
He said he did not see that as a long-term issue.
"Well, we're working on the availability piece, and the fasteners are really easy to install," Shanahan said. "And it's amazing what people can do when they have the parts at the time they need them.
"It sounds simple, but it's a complicated logistics system."