Air New Zealand, which is launch customer for the Boeing 787-9, has revealed that first deliveries of the stretch variant have slipped by another 12 months to early 2013 - more than two years later than had been originally scheduled.

The Star Alliance carrier was the first to commit to the larger -9 variant of the 787 and has eight on firm order. It originally expected its first around the end of 2010, but the programme has seen several delays.

ANZ had been informed in April that first delivery had been pushed back to early 2012. It says Boeing has just confirmed a further delay that will push back delivery by a full year, to 2013.

"Boeing has confirmed a further 12-month delay could be expected with the first 787-9 to be delivered to Air New Zealand in the first quarter of 2013," says the airline. The carrier adds that it "continues to progress compensation discussions".

Meanwhile, efforts continue at Boeing and its partners to progress much-delayed production of the baseline 787-8 model.

Reshuffling at Boeing's Everett final assembly plant has cleared the way for build to begin of the fifth flying 787-8 airframe. Delivery of the aft fuselage to Everett from Vought was due to take place late last week.

Completion of the fifth aircraft's integrated centre-fuselage section is being paced by fastener replacement and it remains at Global Aeronautica's Charleston, South Carolina plant. In some cases, excessive fastener oversizing has forced the replacement of key titanium parts that need to be installed before delivery, says a Charleston-based source.

Boeing aims to start the 787 flight-test programme in the second quarter, with the maiden sortie of the first Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-powered aircraft understood to be targeted for late April.

Progress in the completion on Dreamliners two and five are crucial for certification, as the former will be used to replicate the first aircraft's performance data, while the latter will kick off the approval process for the General Electric GEnx-powered variant.

Boeing has brought in several dozen contracted employees to manage fastener replacement and travelled work to free up machinists to focus on normal final assembly operations, according to several programme sources. One public job posting explicitly asked for a "minimum five years of aircraft production experience required, including knowledge of installing fasteners".

The airframer is not permitted by its labour agreements to hire contractors to conduct normal operations that would otherwise be carried out by members of the Machinists and Aerospace Workers union.

Air New Zealand had originally expected its first 787-9 in late 2010

Source: Flight International