Boeing Says 787 'On Track'

Company eyes acquisitions

Boeing confirmed May 21 the calendar for the launch of its 787 Dreamliner plane and said it is on the lookout to buy defense firms.

The 787, a long-haul, fuel-efficient commercial aircraft, is "on track" for a maiden test flight before the end of June, with first deliveries in the 2010 first quarter, Jim McNerney, chairman, president and chief executive of Boeing, said at an annual investor conference.

James Bell, the aerospace giant's chief financial officer, said it was too soon to assess the financial impact of delays in the 787 program.

Boeing is "still working with some clients" on the delay issues, which resulted in the cancelations to date of two orders from airline companies.

"There's a lot more to do in this area," Bell said, adding that "we're very pleased so far" with the discussions with airline customers.

The 787 Dreamliner program has been plagued by setbacks due in part to the complexity of the next-generation aircraft and its parts construction scattered across the globe.

A two-month machinists strike that ended in early November also pushed back the calendar, which initially had set first deliveries of the Dreamliner in the first half of 2008.

The 787 is expected to be a key driver of revenue and profit for Boeing.

The Chicago-based company posted a 50% drop in first-quarter net profit this year from a year ago, as the global economic and financial crisis buffeted the aviation industry.

On the mergers and acquisitions front, CEO McNerney said that although Boeing's main strategy is organic growth, the company was open to "defense M&As to focus on small, medium-sized deals."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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