Customers are feeling the impact of the ongoing strike at Boeing's manufacturing plants in Seattle as it enters its second month.

Virgin's new long-haul airliner V Australia has had to postpone its launch as it awaits its first 777, and there is a growing concern among 787 launch customers that their much-delayed deliveries will again be rescheduled.

Production at the assembly lines in Everett and Renton has been at a standstill since 6 September, after negotiations between Boeing and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Union collapsed. understands that there are no formal discussions with unions either under way, or scheduled.

Boeing delivered just 12 commercial aircraft in September, having averaged around 39 shipments a month in 2008 previously. V Australia's planned December launch between Sydney and Los Angeles has become the first high-profile casualty.

The airline has been forced to postpone start-up to 28 February while its first 777-300ER sits in Everett awaiting completion and delivery.

V Australia parent Virgin Blue says it has three 777-300ERs in advanced stages of production and that if the strike ends soon, it "would move swiftly to bringing forward the start-up schedule".

Another 777 customer with several deliveries scheduled in 2008 told that these are all unlikely to arrive until next year.

The 787's launch customers All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, which under the latest rescheduling were due to receive their first aircraft in August and October 2009, are bracing for possible further delays.

The current timing is based around the rescheduling of the flight-test programme announced in April, which assumed a first flight in the fourth quarter of 2008 (late October or November being the target).

It is unclear how much work is required to complete the first 787 for its maiden flight. Just before the strike, industry sources said that assembly completion of the first aircraft had been pushed back by around a month to early October, because of unrelated issues, which was already likely to have affected the first-flight target.

"We are certainly bracing ourselves for the prospect of a further delay," says JAL, which has had no official word from Boeing on the status of its deliveries. It adds that "the impact the strike may have on the current 787 delivery schedule is certainly of great concern" but it is continuing to plan for its first aircraft "to be delivered in October 2009".

ANA says the prospect of further delays is of concern, but has had no update from the airframer. "We are still working on the basis of an August delivery," it says.

Boeing's Tokyo office says it does not know when the strike would end, but when it does "we will be able to reassess our production, deliveries and programme schedule for the 787".


 © Matt Cawby

V Australia's first 777-300ER is sitting on the ramp at Everett


Source: Flight International