747-8 hit by fresh delays and $1bn write-down

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Boeing has announced a fresh delay to the first flight of the 747-8 freighter, to the first quarter of 2010, and revealed that it will not now deliver the first aircraft until the fourth quarter of next year.

First flight had previously been scheduled for the fourth quarter of this year, and first delivery for the third quarter of 2010.

Boeing is in addition taking a pre-tax charge of "approximately $1 billion" against its third quarter results due to "increased production costs and the difficult market conditions" affecting the 747-8 programme.

The company says $640 million of the charge reflects "higher estimated costs to produce 747-8 airplanes at both Boeing and supplier facilities. As the programme assembled major components of initial 747-8 freighters during the third quarter, it became clear that late maturity of engineering designs has caused greater than expected re-work and disruption in manufacturing.

"This is resulting in additional resources being applied on the programme and higher supplier expenses, which are the primary cost drivers," it adds.

The remaining $360 million charge relates to "challenging market conditions" and the decision to peg the 747-8's production rate at 1.5 aircraft per month for nearly two years longer than planned, deferring a rise to two per month.

The 747-8 Intercontinental passenger variant remains on schedule for first delivery in the fourth quarter of 2011.