May 2, 2018 / 12:11 PM / 22 days ago

Qatar Airways CEO says 777X behind schedule but sees Boeing catching up

CARDIFF, Wales (Reuters) - The head of Qatar Airways said Boeing’s 777X aircraft program was experiencing delays, but he was sure that Boeing (BA.N) would catch up and deliveries of the jet would start on time in 2020.

FILE PHOTO: A 777X banner is pictured above the 777 Wing Horizontal Build Line at Boeing's production facility in Everett, Washington, U.S. June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Redmond/File Photo

“Boeing I think is a couple of months behind schedule but there is still time and they will catch up,” Chief Executive Akbar al Baker told reporters on Wednesday.

“Any new aircraft program will always have slippage but there is still time to deliver because the first delivery is in 2020...Except if there would be some certification issues, I think that the aircraft will be delivered on schedule.”

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The 406-seat 777-9, the main model of a two-aircraft family known as 777X, aims to maintain Boeing’s grip on the ‘mini-jumbo’ market by leapfrogging Airbus’s (AIR.PA) 365-seat A350-1000, its European rival’s largest twin-engined jet.

    Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told analysts last week that the 777X was on course for first delivery to Gulf carrier Emirates in 2020, as planned.

    “Now again, anytime we’ve got a big development program...it’s one that we keep a very close eye on. So daily, the team is working 777X with great focus, great intensity, but the development program remains on track,” he said.

    Earlier this year, engine supplier General Electric (GE.N) emerged from a three-month delay in flight trials of its new GE9X jet engine, which was designed for the 777X.

    The head of the 777X development program told Reuters in March that Boeing had reorganized testing to avoid being delayed by those snags.

    He also acknowledged problems in producing enough wing stringers - reinforcing strips that go outwards from the fuselage - for the 777X, and said Boeing was “tracking basically back to schedule” on this part of the project.

    Additional reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Paul Sandle/Keith Weir

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