By Laura L. Myers
SEATTLE (Reuters) - Japan Airlines took delivery of its first two Boeing Co 787 Dreamliners on Monday, after a delay of about three years while the plane-maker wrestled with development and production problems.
The delivery to JAL brings the total number of Dreamliners delivered to seven. The airplanes also are the first 787s to be powered by General Electric engines rather than Rolls Royce.
The airline, which has 45 Dreamliners on order, postponed Dreamliner service on several routes while it waited out another delay this year resulting from a manufacturing glitch.
"We were sorry there was a slight delay, but relieved the aircraft is finally ready," said JAL President Yoshiharu Ueki at a ceremony marking the occasion. "And the delay's impact was that the carrier's service from Japan to Moscow, to Delhi, to Beijing was delayed one month."
JAL had expected to receive its first Dreamliner by the end of February.
The Dreamliner is the world's first commercial airplane with an airframe made largely of carbon composites, making it lighter than a traditional aluminum airframe. The 787 boasts unprecedented fuel-efficiency and has won more than 870 orders.
The 787 is about three years behind its original schedule because of problems with Boeing's complex global supply chain.
"We know we were a little late, and we apologize for that," Jim Albaugh, chief executive of Boeing's commercial airplanes division, said at the ceremony. "We hope you'll forgive us."
Boeing, the world's second-largest commercial plane-maker after EADS unit Airbus, made first delivery of a Dreamliner last year to All Nippon Airways and is ramping up the production rate to 10 per month, a target many experts believe to be unattainable.
In early February, Boeing reported signs of "delamination" on the rear fuselage of some 787s. Delamination occurs when stress causes layered composite materials to separate.
Boeing has said it will take 10 to 14 days per plane to repair the glitch. The problem has caused some experts again to question the production rate target. Boeing has stood by its goal, saying the new issue may affect deliveries in the first part of 2012, but not in the longer term.
The company recently increased the 787 production rate to 3.5 per month from 2.5. Boeing is boosting production rates on all of its commercial airplane programs to meet increased demand.
(Reporting By Laura L. Myers; Writing By Kyle Peterson; Editing by Gary Hill)