Boeing says 787 delivery pushed back to February

Boeing had been hinting for months that its year-end deadline for delivery of its first commercial 787 Dreamliner could slip into next year.

Early this morning, the company made it official.

In a brief statement, Boeing said the delivery of the first Dreamliner to launch customer All Nippon Airways would occur sometime in the middle of the first quarter of next year.

The company blamed a variety of problems: the unavailability of engines in a timely manner from British engine maker Rolls-Royce, problems of workmanship on the horizontal tail supplied by Italian parts maker Alenia and problems with fitting some flight test instrumentation.

Rolls didn't get specific about the engine availability issues. It did say, somewhat strangely, that the delays are not connected with the failure of a 787 engine on a test stand in England early this month.

According to industry reports, that problem was an "uncontained failure" in which parts flew off the engine and pierced the containment covering.

The problems with Alenia's parts were discovered earlier this summer. The fit of the horizontal stabilizer into fittings on the plane's body was imperfect requiring Boeing to fabricate shims to ensure a proper match.

Another mystery surrounds the delivery early this week of parts of the fuselage of a 787 from Italy direct to Boeing's Everett factory. Ordinarily those fuselage sections would have been delivered to Boeing's plant in North Charleston, S.C. for mating to other fuselage sections.

Instead they were flown to Everett, some speculate for a detailed inspection. Others say those parts will soon be shipped to South Carolina.

Meanwhile, more than eight months after the first Dreamliner flew, the sixth test aircraft remains grounded. Boeing isn't saying why that aircraft hasn't joined the test fleet.

The latest delay is another setback for the Dreamliner, which already was 2 1/2 years behind schedule. Airline customers are sticking with the plane, however. Boeing lists some 847 orders for the mostly composite plane on its books.