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Boeing names the day for Dreamliner

December 12, 2007 10:46 IST

Boeing on Tuesday sought to calm concerns over its 787 programme by insisting it would deliver the first jet by the end of next year, although it left the door open for further delays by warning that the timetable was "aggressive" and far from "risk-free".

Pat Shanahan, head of the 787 Dreamliner programme, reaffirmed the timetable he inherited from his predecessor, Mike Bair, who was replaced in mid-October after the project was hit by a six-month delay.

Analysts and industry experts have expressed doubts about Boeing's new schedule, saying its delivery targets are still overambitious. The company has scheduled an unusually tight timetable from the start of its test flights at the end of March 2008 to its first deliveries by the end of the year.

Mr Shanahan said he had undertaken "a thorough review of the 787" and was meeting regularly with Boeing's suppliers.

"We have made considerable progress in aligning the entire 787 team around our commitments," said Mr Shanahan, adding that the company still planned to deliver 109 of the aircraft by the end of 2009.

However, the US aerospace group conceded the timetable was tight. Scott Carson, head of Boeing's commercial aerospace division, said the company was "in the process of . . . ironing out significant supply-chain wrinkles" and said: "We're not risk-free but we have a better sense of how to knock those risks down."

Mr Shanahan echoed that sentiment. "There's no doubt our ramp-up is aggressive," he said, "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 do-able."

He indicated that the company was still getting to grips with the sheer complexity of the programme, which uses new materials, technologies and assembly techniques, and outsources more work than ever before to a global network of suppliers.

"There are no real physics problems involved here, there's just a lot of detail," he said.

The 787 is Boeing's most successful aircraft launch in its history. So far this year, it has received 314 orders from 52 customers, a single-year sales record. In total, Boeing has received orders for 762 Dreamliners.

Mr Carson said the company had been mindful to insulate other aircraft production from problems with the 787.

Hal Weitzman in Chicago