Boeing Co. (BA) will suspend deliveries of its grounded 787 Dreamliner while working to meet a U.S. Federal Aviation Administration directive to ensure that the plane’s lithium-ion batteries are safe.
“Production of 787s continues,” Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman, said today in an interview. “We will not deliver 787s until the FAA approves a means of compliance with their recent airworthiness directive concerning batteries and the approved approach has been implemented.”
Halting handovers of Boeing’s most advanced model ever adds to fallout from the Jan. 16 FAA order that 787s in the U.S. be taken out of service due to “potential battery fire risk,” a move followed by regulators worldwide. With Dreamliners barred from flying, airlines can’t get new ones at Boeing’s Washington state and South Carolina factories.
Boeing isn’t changing the 787’s production rate, now at five planes a month, Birtel said. Chicago-based Boeing is working to double monthly output in 2013 to help shrink a backlog of about 800 unfilled orders that swelled during seven delays to the jet’s debut, which finally came in late 2011.
Deliveries are important because that’s when planemakers get large bulk payments on the purchase price of a jet. While the 787’s list price starts at about $207 million, airlines typically buy at discount.
Only one Dreamliner has been handed over this year, on Jan. 3, said Lori Gunter, a spokeswoman. That plane marked the 50th delivery. Boeing said yesterday that it was in talks with the FAA on plans for deliveries and production test flights while work continues to assure the safety of the battery packs.
The FAA and its counterparts abroad acted after a fire on a Japan Airlines Co. (9201) 787 last week in Boston and an emergency landing by an All Nippon Airways Co. (9202) plane on a domestic flight in Japan this week because of a battery-fault warning.
“We have high confidence in the safety of the 787 and stand squarely behind its integrity,” Chief Executive Officer Jim McNerney said today in a message to employees. “We are working around the clock to support the FAA, our customers, and others in the investigations.”
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