Boeing expects to roll out the first Next Generation 737-based Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) from the Renton production site by the end of this month.

The manufacturer, in agreement with BBJ partner General Electric, has also decided to take delivery of the first aircraft for use as a demonstrator.

The continuing production problems at Renton have forced "a week or two" slippage in the original schedule, says Boeing. Roll-out was originally expected to take place on 19 July, and first flight was destined for 17 August. Boeing now plans a first flight on 21 September, but says the actual first flight could still take place as early as the last few days of August.

Despite the delays, Boeing remains confident of delivering the first BBJ on time. As the first customer is now Boeing itself, however, and not GE as originally planned, this is virtually academic.

"Seeing as we are the customer, if we're late delivering, we probably won't complain too much," says the US manufacturer.

The aircraft will be outfitted as a demonstrator and "-will probably be taken to Paris and other places in 1999", says Boeing. GE, which was to have taken its aircraft for use by its president, Jack Welch, is now expected to take one of the first 10.

The winglets which were on test on the 737-800 prototype have now been removed and flight data are being analysed.

A set of blended winglets, made by Seattle-based Aviation Partners, is expected to be fitted to the initial aircraft for further tests, although Boeing stresses that no firm decision has been made on incorporating winglets on production versions of the BBJ.

Source: Flight International