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Sunday, September 18, 2011 - Page updated at 11:30 a.m.

Delivery of Boeing's first 747-8 cargo jet delayed

By Seattle Times business staff

Boeing on Friday abruptly suspended plans to deliver its first 747-8 freighter on Monday to launch customer Cargolux, saying only that "unresolved contractual issues" prevented the four days of ceremonial hoopla it had scheduled.

"We're continuing to work with Cargolux and look forward to delivering these airplanes," said spokesman Jim Proulx. He declined to detail the reasons behind the last-minute hang-up: "We can't discuss the contents of our discussions with our customers."

The plane, Boeing's largest ever, is more than two years late.

Proulx said the jumbo jet itself "would be ready to deliver on Monday" if not for the dispute.

Cargolux issued a statement Saturday confirming that because of contractual issues, its board of directors "took the decision yesterday to reject the first two Boeing 747-8 Freighters."

The statement gave no details about the dispute, but said that "In the event that the issues cannot be resolved in a timely manner, Cargolux will source alternative capacity to fully meet customer demand and expectations ahead of the traditional high season."

Leading up to Boeing's planned deliveries were extensive media briefings for the international aerospace press, scheduled for Sunday.

Boeing planned to deliver one on Monday, then hold a ceremony the next day with employees and top executives led by Commercial Airplanes President Jim Albaugh. A second jumbo freighter delivery to Cargolux was planned for Wednesday.

"That party will have to wait," wrote Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth on his company blog Friday afternoon.

"While this is disappointing to all of us here at Boeing, we're working with Cargolux to resolve the issues. They've been an incredible partner going back a long way," he added. "The 747-8 Freighter is something to celebrate — and we plan on doing just that very soon."

The Luxembourg-based cargo hauler recently reshuffled its board after Qatar Airways took a 43 percent stake. On Friday it said the new board used its first meeting to review the company's financial and business situation, although it didn't say anything about the 747. A Cargolux spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The plane will enter service two years later than originally planned when the program was launched in fall 2005, mostly because of a late design decision and a cascade of resultant aerodynamic issues.

Boeing has orders for 78 of the jumbo cargo jets. The 747-8 freighter's list price is $319 million, but discounts are common and aircraft valuation firm Avitas estimates the actual price at $189 million.

The first Boeing 747 was delivered in 1969. But Boeing has revamped it by making it longer and able to carry more weight, in a major overhaul that required lengthy flight testing.

The passenger version of the plane is set to be delivered to its first customer, thought to be the Kuwaiti government, by the end of this year. German airline Lufthansa is scheduled to get the first one for regular passenger service early next year.

The latest delay comes as Boeing is also getting ready to deliver its new 787 to All Nippon Airways later this month.

Material from The Associated Press

and Seattle Times archives is included

in this report.

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