New delays loom for both Dreamliner and jumbo Airbus

Boeing has warned customers they face a 27-month delay in deliveries of its new Dreamliner jet, and Airbus has also told buyers of a fresh hitch in manufacturer of its jumbo A380, German news reports said Saturday.

Boeing, was reported this week to have begun assembly of the fifth Dreamliner, a flight-test plane, with the project 15 months late.

But the daily newspaper Die Welt said Saturday the US manufacturer was in deeper trouble than that with its B787 project.

It said many airlines had been warned in a letter that deliveries planned after 2012 would be delayed as much as 27 months. Die Welt said Boeing declined comment with a spokeswoman saying, "We do not disclose our discussions with our customers on principle."

A German weekly magazine, Wirtschaftswoche, was meanwhile set to report that Airbus was reviewing its delivery timetable for the A380, a move that often presages postponements. The A380 has been held up by the complexity of its cabin wiring, customized for each buyer.

As with the Dreamliner, the delays affect the mass-produced version. Planemakers lose vast sums of money on the hand-built planes that begin a new series, but recover the investment later when they can churn out many identical planes as a routine.

Approached for comment by Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa , Airbus said the A380 programme was being reviewed because a key stage in the jet's manufacture, using new software to manage the wiring work, had been reached.

This meant that the 26th plane to be made, the first to be have all its wiring designed by computer, would roll out late, but this did not mean the 27th would be delayed, and later jets might even be ahead of schedule.

It was vital to complete the 26th perfectly as a standard for the rest.

Airbus spokesman Stefan Schaffrath said in Germany he was not aware of any letter to customers about this.

A French trade union magazine has said number 26, destined for Australian airline Qantas, would be shipped three months later than its late 2008 delivery date, Wirtschaftswoche said.

The weekly said the existing plan, last revised in October 2006, called for 13 jets to be shipped this year and 25 next year.

It quoted an "insider" saying Airbus would "nearly" manage the target for this year but could probably not fulfil next year's.

Die Welt said the graver new delay in the Boeing jet similarly affected the routine version and was likely to a topic when Boeing chief financial officer James Bell speaks to analysts on Thursday.

Boeing originally planned the hand-built, first Dreamliner for a customer to be shipped to All Nippon Airlines of Japan in the present month, May 2008. Several weeks ago it said the date would be in the third quarter of 2009.

Die Welt said, "The first deliveries are likely be on time next year, but routine production is likely to start must more slowly than previously planned." Customers have ordered more than 900 of the jet, which seats up to 300 passengers.

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