LOS ANGELES - Boeing (IW 500/16) announced Sunday it has started building its 787-9, a longer version of its 787 Dreamliner, looking to leave the jet's problems behind.

"The newest member of the 787 family began taking shape on schedule May 30 in Everett, Wash., when Boeing started joining large sections of the super-efficient jet," the aircraft giant said in a statement.

The 787-9 can carry 250 to 290 passengers -- 40 more than the 787-8, which started operating in September 2011 -- across an additional 300 nautical miles (555 kilometers) while using 20% less fuel than airplanes of the same size.

It should be making a first flight within months and an initial delivery in early 2014 to Air New Zealand.

"From the start, the entire 787-9 team has focused relentlessly on execution so that we fulfill the commitments to our customers," said Mark Jenks, vice president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes' 787 program.

"Integrating the 787-9 into our production system on time is another clear sign that we are well-prepared and well-positioned for the work ahead."

Twenty customers around the world have ordered 355 787-9s, making up 40% of all 787 orders, the company said.

Boeing is keen to show clients that it can keep deliveries on schedule after the Dreamliner came into service more than three years late.

Regulators grounded the 787 after a battery fire on one aircraft parked at a U.S. airport and a smoldering battery on another caused smoke and fumes, forcing an emergency landing.

In April, U.S. officials cleared the plane to fly following alterations to its lithium-ion batteries.

The first Dreamliner resumed flights later that month and since then, more than half of all of the aircraft have been put back into service.

But Japan Airlines found a fault with a modified Dreamliner on Sunday, reports said, a day after it resumed full operation of the 787 fleet.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013