Boeing scrubs planned first delivery of 747-8F

Mon Sep 19, 2011 4:38am EDT

The new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental jetliner is parked on the eve of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris June 19, 2011. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

The new Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental jetliner is parked on the eve of the Paris Air Show at Le Bourget airport near Paris June 19, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Pascal Rossignol

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(Reuters) - Boeing Co (BA.N) said on Friday it would not make the planned first delivery of its 747-8 Freighter to Cargolux on Monday, citing "unresolved issues" with the airline.

The plane maker, which had planned three days of celebrations to mark the long-awaited first delivery, did not disclose the problem and referred questions to the customer.

A Cargolux spokeswoman was unreachable by phone and did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.

Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx said the company was working with Cargolux to resolve the issues. He declined to say how the snag would affect the 747-8F delivery schedule.

"We are working with our customer to determine a date for delivery," Proulx said.

Boeing, the world's second-largest plane maker, was set to make first delivery of the freighter version of its elongated 747 to a customer on Monday, marking the start of a new chapter in the life of the aircraft that has been Boeing's most recognizable plane for decades.

Cargolux, Europe's largest all-cargo airline, was scheduled to take possession of the 747-8 Freighter amid celebrations at Boeing's assembly plant in Everett, Washington.

The last-minute snag follows multiple delays to another Boeing plane, the mid-sized 787 Dreamliner. That plane, now scheduled to make its first delivery 10 days from now, is about three years behind its original schedule and several billion dollars over budget by some estimates.

While Boeing declined to identify the source of the friction with Cargolux over the 747-8, aviation experts suspected the dispute was over performance guarantees related to fuel consumption of the General Electric (GE.N) engines. The 747-8 features GE's GEnx-2B67.

"The performance problems were well known and they were supposed to be addressed by Boeing and GE," said Adam Pilarski, senior vice president at AVITAS, an airline consulting company that also works with aircraft lessors and lenders.

Pilarski said he had no first-hand knowledge of the matter, but he said the issue probably had been percolating for some time. He said customers sometimes request financial compensation if they believe an airplane will not live up to their expectations.

Pilarski said he thinks the issue could be resolved within weeks and that Cargolux will still be the first 747-8 customer.

"It will be resolved with financial conditions," he said. "Right now they are playing chicken."

The 747 was the world's largest airplane until 2005, when EADS EAD.PA unit Airbus unveiled its A380.

Boeing has taken 78 orders for the 747-8 Freighter, which lists at $319.3 million, according to the company's web site.

Boeing also is testing a passenger version of the updated 747-8, dubbed the Intercontinental, which it plans to deliver in the fourth quarter to an unidentified VIP customer.

The upgraded 747 promises to burn less fuel, and the passenger version offers more comforts. The plane also boasts new wings, a new tail, state-of-the-art engines and a new cockpit.

Production of the 747-8 has been delayed by more than a year.

The much-delayed 787 Dreamliner, a carbon-composite plane, represents a bigger leap in technology than the revamped 747-8.

The 787 is set for first delivery to All Nippon Airways (9202.T) on September 26.

(Reporting by Kyle Peterson in Chicago, editing by Bernard Orr)

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