Boeing Dreamliner Risks Certification Delay on Shutdown

Boeing Co.’s new, bigger 787 Dreamliner and other aircraft ready to be delivered to airline customers may face certification delays because of a looming U.S. government shutdown.

The Federal Aviation Administration will delay “all aircraft certification” depending on the length of the shutdown, the agency said today in an e-mailed statement. A lengthy government paralysis could eventually affect aircraft development programs like Boeing’s 787-9, a stretched version of its marquee Dreamliner, said John Dern, a spokesman for Chicago-based Boeing.

“It depends how long this goes on for,” Dern said in a phone interview. “We have contingency plans in place to deal with interruptions to our normal operations if there’s a government shutdown.”

Boeing is catching a break since any shutdown would occur after its typical end-of-quarter flurry in aircraft deliveries and should have “no impact on near-term results,” Howard Rubel, a New York-based aerospace analyst with Jefferies Inc., said in an e-mail.

Aircraft certification workers are among the 15,514 FAA employees who are due to be furloughed at midnight tonight if Congress isn’t able to reach an agreement to extend government funding. While 2,800 workers may be recalled to perform operational safety work, employees handling certification and support would remain on furlough, according to contingency plans posted on the Transportation Department’s website.

Maiden Flight

Boeing’s 787-9 Dreamliner took its first flight earlier this month and is expected to begin service for Air New Zealand Ltd. by mid-2014 after it completes flight testing and certification. The world’s largest planemaker doesn’t expect other aircraft deliveries to be interrupted since Boeing workers specially designated by the FAA already handle final approvals for most jets leaving Boeing’s factories, Dern said.

“We would anticipate that deliveries of most commercial airplanes would continue during a shutdown,” Dern said. “We have the delegated authority to do that.”