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Kai Ryssdal: It’s been a 100 and some-odd years now since the Wright Brothers made their first flight on the beach at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. But it seems we are still learning to fly. This morning Boeing announced another setback for its 787 Dreamliner. That makes five times the company’s had to put off the first test flight of its new fuel-efficient flying machine. Boeing could pay a heavy price in cost overruns and delivery penalties to its customers. But our senior business correspondent Bob Moon reports, there’s really not much threat the world’s airlines will take their long-delayed orders somewhere else.
BOEING EXECUTIVE AT ROLLOUT CEREMONY: I am really proud to premier the Boeing 787 Dreamliner!
BOB MOON: Since the first 787 was rolled out two years ago, Boeing executives have had more luck building excitement than Dreamliners. The cutting-edge plane is already two years behind schedule. And today, chief executive Scott Carson delivered more bad news during a conference call: The Dreamliner’s carbon-composite wing attachments need reinforcing before the first test flight can get off the ground.
SCOTT CARSON: The tests that we’ve been running are intended to ensure that any issues are uncovered and solutions are found earlier rather than later.
But it’s disturbingly late to be turning up trouble now, as aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group sees it. With 850 planes on order, some airlines had been expecting delivery later this year. Now, Boeing can only say it’ll be several weeks before it can set a new target date.
RICHARD ABOULAFIA: The question is, what happens next? Is this a harbinger of further problems that haven’t been fully uncovered? Is this an aircraft that simply needs additional work moving forward?
At Oakbrook Investments, Peter Jankovskis isn’t as concerned. He argues that Boeing is way ahead of its European rival, Airbus, and delays are inevitable with cutting-edge technology. He also points out customers aren’t likely to take their business elsewhere.
PETER JANKOVSKIS: Certainly many airlines right now are probably hoping to have a delay in their order cycle so they can build up some more revenue before they take delivery of the planes.
If Boeing needs to have delay, he says, now might just be a good time.
I’m Bob Moon for Marketplace.
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