By Kyle Peterson
(Reuters) - The head of Boeing Co's
The light-weight, carbon-composite airplane is already three years behind its development schedule. In February, Boeing reported signs of "delamination" on the rear fuselage of some 787s, calling into question the company's plan to build 10 of the airplanes per month by the end of next year.
"I see nothing to date that leads me to believe that we won't deliver all the 787s we have in our plan by the end of the year," Jim Albaugh told a JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense conference that was broadcast over the Internet.
Delamination occurs when stress causes layered composite materials to separate. The issue was the result of a manufacturing error that occurred at a Boeing plant in South Carolina.
Boeing has said that the problem may affect the first 55 Dreamliners built and that it will take 10 to 14 days per plane to repair. Boeing has said the repair may affect deliveries in the first part of 2012, but not in the longer term.
"Between the 787 and the 747, we should deliver between 70 and 85 of those airplanes this year. It's split pretty evenly between the two airplanes," Albaugh said. The 747 is the largest commercial airplane Boeing makes.
Many experts doubt that Boeing can hit the 10-per-month rate target for Dreamliners. The current rate is 3.5 per month.
Despite the delays, the Dreamliner is a hit among customers, who have ordered about 870. Boeing delivered the first 787 last year. The company assembles 787s at plants in Washington and South Carolina. Boeing expects the first 787 assembled in South Carolina to be completed next month.
The company, which competes for orders with its European rival Airbus, a unit of EADS
Meanwhile, Boeing is planning a new version of its popular widebody 777. Albaugh said the company is leaning toward updating the current design with composite wings and new engines rather than completely redesigning the aircraft.
He said that when Boeing has a firm plan for the 777, it could seek board of director approval for it later this year.
Shares of Boeing were up 56 cents at $74.87 on the New York Stock Exchange near midday.
(Reporting By Kyle Peterson; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick)