Aviation

Boeing's new 747 delayed 6 more months

Boeing said Thursday that it has extended a yearlong delivery delay for its new 747 jumbo jet by six months to mid-2011 and said it will add a fifth plane to the test fleet to speed up the work.

The setback shouldn't have a material impact on Boeing's 2010 earnings, the Chicago-based company said in a statement. Boeing has taken $2.04 billion in charges amid three prior delays that had stretched the latest delivery date to the end of this year.

The new target matches what analysts had predicted, based on the average of nine estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Eight analysts had projected an average financial charge of about $360 million. CEO Jim McNerney has warned since July that the 747-8's schedule was at risk.

Engineers are working on dozens of issues discovered since the 747-8's maiden flight in February, Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Jim Albaugh said in an interview this week. The fifth variant of the 40-year-old jumbo jet stretches the iconic hump on top and features new engines and the longest wing Boeing has built. The expansion forced engineers to make more changes than expected, Albaugh said.

Some problems, such as buffeting around the wheel well on landings, have been resolved, while others are "addressable" and need more time, he said.

Engineers are testing software this week to correct unwanted oscillation, or vibration, during flight. They're also redesigning the inboard aileron actuator, a system on the wings that helps the plane turn, after it moved up and down unexpectedly on one of the jets during testing.

The 747-8 is only the second plane in Boeing's 94-year history to be in a "reach-forward loss position," a status the program entered at the end of 2008. The accounting rules require Boeing to record additional charges if the estimated loss increases and to record future plane deliveries at no profit margin unless its profitability improves.

The first 747 rolled out of Boeing's Everett, Wash., factory 42 years ago Thursday. It was the world's largest airliner until the Airbus A380 superjumbo, which carries more than 500 passengers, entered service in 2007.

The $303 million 747-8 freighter, with 16 percent more room for cargo, was launched with an order from Cargolux Airlines International SA in November 2005.

The passenger version, called the Intercontinental, holds 51 extra seats, for a total of 467, and is scheduled to enter service with Deutsche Lufthansa at the end of 2011, a year later than planned. Boeing didn't say whether that version would be further delayed. It carries a list price of about $300 million.

FedEx orders 777s

Boeing says it has sold two more of its 777 aircraft to FedEx.

Boeing's order update through Tuesday shows it also sold a 737 to an unidentified customer. However, it also lost three orders for that short-to-medium range plane.

On Tuesday, Boeing Co. identified Air China as the customer for four other 777s. So far this year it has sold 40 of the long-range wide-body planes, which come in passenger and freighter versions. List prices run between $205 million and $286 million, although discounts are common.

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