Boeing is facing the prospect of losing some early 787 orders amid growing concerns that initial production aircraft will fall short of performance promises due to weight issues.

"I pity the airlines that get the first 787s," International Lease Finance chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy told delegates at the ISTAT air transport trade conference in Phoenix, Arizona last week. "Rest assured that the first batch will be overweight. Obviously those aircraft will not be the same standard as those 787s later on."

Udvar-Hazy says that Boeing is injecting a lot of resources "into rectifying that problem" and eliminating the additional "empty weight" on the first 787s. "In the long run, this will be an excellent aircraft," he adds.

787 (timline)
 © Boeing

Boeing Commercial Airplanes director of marketing Drew McGill says "there is no change" to the airframer's plan to meet the 787-8's targeted performance of a range of 14,200-15,200km (7,650-8,200nm).

However it has emerged that Shanghai Airlines, which sources say is due to receive the tenth 787-8 built, is considering cancelling part of its nine aircraft order as Chinese airlines renegotiate their delivery slots. Shanghai Airlines chairman Zhou Chi was quoted in media reports as saying the aircraft doesn't "fully meet the quality that Boeing touted earlier".

Sources close to the 787 programme told Flight International affiliate FlightBlogger that all the Chinese 787 customers are working to renegotiate delivery of their share of the first 20 production aircraft "officially for payload reasons". Of the first 20 787-8s built, which include the first six flight-test aircraft, Chinese airlines are expected to receive half. Shanghai's second 787-8 would be the 50th built.

At least one 787 existing customer is understood to have secured significantly earlier production slots through the rescheduling of deliveries to clients that have deferred their orders.

Boeing declines to comment specifically on its negotiations with Shanghai Airlines, saying only that it is "working very closely with customers to understand their evolving fleet requirements".

Source: Flight International