Boeing today announced at least a six- to nine-month delay for the 747-8 freighter and a delay of at least three to six months for the 747-8 Intercontinental passenger version.

The length of the delay reveals the 747 programme is facing challenges far beyond the two-month strike by the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM), which ended earlier this month.

Boeing's new schedule moves first delivery of the 747-8F to Cargolux from late 2009 to the third quarter of 2010. First delivery of the 747-8I to Lufthansa - the first airline customer - is delayed from late 2010 to the second quarter of 2011.

The 747-8 faces "supply chain delays driven by design changes to the airplane, limited availability of engineering resources inside Boeing and the recent machinists' strike that halted production", Boeing explains.

 © Boeing

Earlier this year, a Boeing executive acknowledged that the 747-8F was at least 1% overweight and the programme had erred by outsourcing engineering work to too many different suppliers.

But the company had reported two recent measures of progress. In August, the first 747-8F entered final assembly in Everett, Washington, although the IAM strike halted most production work for two months. Last month, Boeing said it had released 95% of the engineering drawings to the supply chain.

"The remaining work on the 747-8 programme is well-defined," vice-president and general manager, 747 and Everett site, Ross Bogue says in a statement. "This schedule adjustment provides the time we need to finish that work and bring both airplanes to market successfully for our customers."

The delay marks the second major supply chain and production breakdown among Boeing's current development programmes. First delivery of the 787-8 has already been delayed from May 2008 to at least August 2009. That schedule is also being re-assessed after the IAM strike.

Boeing Commercial Airplane President and CEO Scott Carson says the company is "clearly disappointed" by how the 747-8 issue affects customers. "We are committed to working with our customers to mitigate any disruption it causes them," Carson says.

Boeing has sold 78 747-8Fs and 27 747-8Is, including 20 passenger models to Lufthansa and seven VIP versions. One VIP customer's order was removed from Boeing's order list on 13 November.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news