Boeing postponed the first test flight of its new 787 Dreamliner because of problems with fasteners and a crippling 58-day machinists strike. The Dreamliner's "first flight is not going to be accomplished" in the fourth quarter as planned, Yvonne Leach, a Boeing spokeswoman for the Dreamliner program, said.

The company is assessing the program in light of the fastener problems and a 58-day machinists strike that ended Nov. 2 and will announce a new Dreamliner launch timetable when that that process is completed, she said.

Leach said company inspectors found that about three percent of the fasteners used to hold together sections and parts of the new plane were incorrectly sized. Some of them were too short and some were too long, so they did not properly hold together sections and parts, she said.

The faulty fastener installations occurred with Boeing's U.S. and foreign structure suppliers for the Dreamliner, Leach said. Japan's Mitsubishi supplies the wings; Alenia of Italy is building the fuselage, and two U.S. firms, Vought Aircraft Industries and Spirit Aerosystems, are constructing the tail and nose, respectively.

It was the fourth time Boeing has delayed the Dreamliner launch. The first deliveries of the 787, initially planned for the first half of 2008, most recently had been pushed back to the third quarter of 2009 due to production difficulties.

Boeing says it has received nearly 900 orders to date for the 787 Dreamliner from more than 55 customers worldwide.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008