US aircraft maker Boeing said it would start delivering 787 Dreamliners to its Chinese customers in the fourth quarter of 2009, after pushing back the target delivery date three times by more than a year behind the original schedule.
The company regretted the impact of the delays on its customers and would offer interim aircraft before the delivery, said W. James McNerney, president of The Boeing Company.
Five Chinese airlines - Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan Airlines and Shanghai Airlines - ordered 60 B787 aircraft in 2005.
The first B787 rolled off the line last year. It can carry a maximum of 330 passengers and is more fuel-efficient than other planes.
McNerney said the company would negotiate with the Chinese buyers about penalty payments. The Chinese airlines declined to comment.
Worldwide, more than 50 airlines and leasing companies have ordered the 787 Dreamliner. In early April, the company announced a third major delay on the new plane, postponing the delivery of the first plane to the third quarter of 2009.
Scott Carson, president of Boeing Commercial Aviation, was quoted in the US media as saying that the delays had been caused by continued problems with a far-flung network of international suppliers.
Talking about China's recent efforts to make jumbo passenger aircraft, McNerney said he believed the project would succeed because the country had excellent manufacturing capabilities, huge market potential and good leadership.
In May, China established a domestic company with registered capital of 19 billion yuans ($2.7 billion) to make large passenger aircraft, which was considered a step forward in the quest to become less dependent on Boeing and Airbus.
McNerney said Boeing predicted China would need another 3,400 aircraft in the next 20 years. The company would cooperate with its Chinese partners to provide higher-quality services and products.
Boeing has joint-venture companies in Tianjin, Xiamen and Shanghai. (Xinhua)