Boeing is considering suspending work on the -3 shorthaul variant of its troubled 787 twinjet as it fights to get production of the long-range -8 lead version and development of the -9 stretch back on track.
A 787 programme source says the delay in development of the -3 "may be a precursor for cancellation. Regardless, we're stopping work on it."
The source adds that the short range -3, "being developed simultaneously with the -9 was really stretching the company's resources. This will free up people to work on the much more popular -9 variant."
The -3, so far ordered only by 787 launch customer All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines (JAL), had originally been due to enter service in 2010, a few months ahead of the -9.
"We have been informed that there is a possibility of a delay to the 787-3," says JAL. "We have not received a new delivery schedule since the delays to the programme were announced. Obviously the 787-3 is important to our plans. It has a shorter wingspan, which is important at key airports in Japan."
Boeing is drawing up a new delivery schedule for all 787 customers in the wake of production delays which have pushed the aircraft's first flight back to mid-2008. The manufacturer says it expects to announce its plans at the end of the first quarter and is unable to comment on any possible resequencing of the variants before then.
"We are working through delivery schedules with our suppliers," says Boeing marketing vice president Randy Tinseth. "We won't get the plans done until the end of the first quarter."
On the future of the -3 variant, Tinseth says: "We have a commitment to ANA and JAL to build that airplane."