Boeing ended more than two months of uncertainty on its 787 programme when the airframer unveiled the latest schedule revision of first flight and first delivery.

The company says the 787 will fly by the end of 2009, with first delivery coming a year later in the fourth quarter of 2010. The latest schedule adds an additional six to nine months to almost two years of delays already incurred by Boeing's flagship product. First delivery to Japan's All Nippon Airways was originally planned for May 2008.

Pat Shanahan, vice president of airplane programs says that ZA001, Boeing's first 787, is "functionally ready to fly on all accounts" aside from the side of body structural modifications that have grounded the 787 fleet since the disclosure of the issue on 23 June.

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney says "the design details and implementation plan [for the modification] are nearly complete, and the team is preparing airplanes for modification and testing".

Shanahan says that the company will install the side of body modification on the the static test aircraft and ZA001 concurrently, with full scale static testing to take place before 787 is cleared for flight.

Boeing's revised schedule extends the flight test campaign "with the addition of several weeks of schedule margin to reduce flight test and certification risk". The flight test programme methodology remains unchanged, with the company still believing it can complete certification in 8 to 9 months, yet the fourth quarter target for first delivery provides Boeing up to a year if needed.

The company also revised its production plan of meeting a rate of 10 787's per month, which will now be achieved by the end of 2013, one year later than previously planned.

Scott Carson, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, says that without a second final assembly line, the company will only be able to produce seven 787s per month at its existing Everett, WA facility.

Just days before the 27 August release of the revised schedule, the company announced it was filing permits in with the government of North Charleston, SC to remove any "administrative issue that stood in the way of the decision", says Carson.

In addition, Boeing has declared that the first three of six flight test aircraft "have no commercial market value beyond the development effort due to the inordinate amount of rework and unique and extensive modifications made to those aircraft".

As a result, the company has taken a write off of $2.5B as the three planes are shifted from inventory to research and development expenses. Boeing maintains that aircraft four through six remain viable and will likely go to VIP customers.

The shift in schedule also slides the 787-9 entry into service with Air New Zealand from early 2013 to later the same year.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news