TOKYO - Aerospace giant Boeing said Friday it would further delay the delivery of its first 787 Dreamliner aircraft until early next year, in another set-back for the troubled jet programme.
Boeing said it now expects to deliver the first Dreamliner in the middle of the first quarter of 2011 as it continues to carry out tests on the beleaguered plane, which is already more than two years behind schedule.
Confirmation that Boeing will not be able to hand over the first aircraft to Japan's All Nippon Airways (ANA) this year came in a statement released in the US and Japan, after it warned in July it may have to delay.
The Chicago-based plane maker said the latest setback follows problems with the Rolls-Royce engines that will power the plane as it continues to test the aircraft.
"While Boeing works closely with Rolls-Royce to expedite engine availability, flight testing across the test fleet continues as planned," it said.
Boeing added that the scheduled revision will not affect the company's financial guidance.
Rolls-Royce said Friday it was working closely with Boeing to rush through delivery of the engines.
The aviation giant is hanging its future on the mid-sized plane - its first new model in more than a decade - which draws on huge advances in aviation technology and can fly long-haul routes using up to 20 percent less fuel.
Boeing launched the Dreamliner programme in April 2004 and initially had planned to deliver the first plane to ANA in the first half of 2008. But the aircraft, which can seat up to 330 passengers, only made its maiden flight in December last year.
The series of delays in the 787 programme has cost Boeing billions of dollars as airlines such as Russia's S7 and Australia's Qantas last year cancelled their orders.
Earlier this month flagship carrier Air India said it wanted compensation from Boeing for delays in the delivery of Dreamliner planes, with media reports saying the airline is demanding one billion dollars.
In July, Boeing warned that a series of issues, including problems with the "horizontal stabiliser" and instrumentation delays, could push the first delivery back into next year.
Boeing said it had detected a "workmanship issue" with the horizontal stabiliser, a component in the rear of the aircraft that is designed to stabilise it in flight. It is made by Italy's Alenia.
The Dreamliner's fuel efficiency is largely down to the fact that up to half the twin-aisle aircraft is made of lightweight composite materials, such as carbon fibre-reinforced resin, according to the company.
Japan's ANA has ordered a total of 55 Dreamliners as it looks to gradually replace its fleet of kerosene-hungry vehicles with more economically and environmentally friendly models.
"It is unfortunate since it is a very good aircraft and testing was going smoothly," an ANA statement said in reaction to the latest delay. "We hope that (Boeing) will further improve the airframe and make the delivery as soon as possible," it said.
Meanwhile Boeing's fierce European rival Airbus is working on a new long-haul plane of its own - the A350 XWB (Extra Wide Body). Another big project for Airbus is its long-delayed A400M military transport plane.