Boeing suggests 767-300ERs to help solve the 787 capacity gap
Boeing has yet to tell 787 customers exactly how their delivery schedules will be impacted by the latest delay, but it has floated the idea of producing brand new 767-300ERs to help fill the capacity gap.
Dreamliner deliveries will not now begin until the third quarter of next year - at least six months later than planned - and production ramp-up will then be much slower than previously expected with output not due to reach 10 a month until 2012.
One industry source told Flight International that these fears have already resulted in widebody values being "artificially high". As Boeing looks at ways of bridging the capacity shortfall, sources say that one option being examined is to redirect the 767 production planned for its now defunct KC-X tanker bid towards the passenger market.
While such a move would be a costly exercise, the airframer is already facing calls from some customers to help fund their interim leases and this option would enable it to assist with an asset that could eventually be redeployed in the freight market.
Qantas chief executive Geoff Dixon has already stated that he believes Boeing should assume the lease costs for six Airbus A330s that the airline plans to acquire for its Jetstar division to help it overcome the capacity shortfall brought about by the 787 delay. Dixon adds that Qantas may look for additional capacity beyond the six A330s.
The US airframer is known to have put the 767 "lease" proposal to some of its 787 customers. Boeing declines to comment on the details of any discussions, saying only: "We will work with each of our customers individually to understand the impact of the delays on their business and how to mitigate those impacts."
Two early customers likely to be seriously affected by the production delay are major US carriers Continental Airlines and Northwest Airlines.
With both due to receive early 787 deliveries, their long-haul network growth plans are built around the new twinjets with, for example, the 787 earmarked to introduce new flights to China next year.