Boeing is scrambling to hand over three more 787s to All Nippon Airways before the close of 2011, aiming to meet at least a portion of its delivery guidance for the new twinjet.
However, the slow pace of deliveries has already had an effect on ANA's commercial deployment of the type.
Airplane 31, registration JA805A, the next aircraft in line for delivery, entered customer flight evaluations on 21 December. It flew on 5 December for the first time and then undertook further Boeing crew production flights, including one on 9 December that resulted in a declared emergency for what is believed to have been an issue with the aircraft's flaps.
The 787 was due to have been handed over in November, but ANA announced a delay citing "productivity reasons", while Boeing blamed the need to "incorporate design changes on assembled" aircraft.
Boeing's most recent delivery guidance is set at 15 to 20 747-8s and 787s, with the new twin accounting for approximately one-third of those deliveries.
It's a figure that has steadily decreased throughout the year. Boeing began 2011 with guidance of 25 to 40 deliveries, which was then cut to 25 to 30 in July. Boeing has so far delivered two 787s to ANA and nine 747-8 Freighters to three customers - Cathay Pacific, Atlas Air and Cargolux.
Part of the problem is the need for additional work to be undertaken on each aircraft. Although the airframer's final assembly line in Everett, Washington is running reliably at 2.5 aircraft per month, the need for each 787 to undergo change incorporation and modification operations - split between the Everett Modification Center (EMC) and the Global Service & Support Facility in San Antonio, Texas - means the company is struggling to meet its proposed delivery rate.
Programme sources said another cause of the delivery delay has been the replacement of the Hamilton Sundstrand APS-500 auxiliary power unit on Airplane 31, as well as two additional unidentified 787s. Boeing confirmed three APUs had been removed and returned to Hamilton Sundstrand for root cause analysis because of "a recent start-up issue", but declined to say if Airplane 31 had been one of the three.
Airplanes 41 (JA807A) and nine (JA804A), the latter of which had already been through the company's change incorporation process for its trials in system functionality and reliability (F&R) and extended operations (ETOPS), are slated to join Airplane 31 as 2011 deliveries. Airplane 41 made its maiden sortie on 19 December and Airplane nine returned to flying on 21 December.
However, programme sources acknowledge that delivering those aircraft during the remainder of 2011 will be a challenge.
The delayed deliveries have slowed the type's deployment, with ANA postponing its first scheduled international service, connecting Tokyo-Haneda to Beijing, from December to 14 January. Although its first long-haul link between Haneda and Frankfurt is still set to begin on 21 January, ANA will alternate a 777-200ER and a 787-8 on the route beginning 1 February, pushing its initially planned daily 787 service to the German city to 1 March.
Long-range routes will be enabled by the now-certified Package B Rolls-Royce Trent 1000, which was given its US Federal Aviation Administration certification pairing with the 787 airframe on 19 December. It brings the engine specific fuel consumption within 1% of the engine-maker's original specification.
ANA announced on 21 December its first US routes with the 787 would connect Tokyo Narita to Seattle and San Jose, California some time during its 2012 fiscal year, which begins on 1 April.
CORRECTION: The number of 747-8F deliveries as of 22 December was updated to nine to three customers, rather than eight as first indicated.