updated 3/7/2008 2:20:37 PM ET 2008-03-07T19:20:37

Supply chain troubles and production problems may force Boeing Co. to further delay the first flight of its new 787 jetliner, some analysts said Friday.

Boeing said it’s evaluating the schedule, but that its goal is still to power up the plane in early April and send it on its first flight by the end of June.

In January, the aircraft maker announced a third major delay in the 787 program, pushing the delivery date for the first plane into early 2009 and saying it would assess its timeline for getting the aircraft off the ground.

Boeing isn’t expected to announce the outcome of its review until the end of the month, but analysts said Friday they’re hearing another delay is in the cards.

“I definitely have been hearing that,” said Scott Hamilton, of aviation analyst group Leeham Cos. “Boeing was far too aggressive in its original production schedule and failed to take into account the groundbreaking technology of the airplane and the complexities of the production model.”

Hamilton said he is confident the company will work out the issues, but he said airlines and leasing companies waiting for their new planes aren’t going to be happy in the meantime.

“It’s going to be a huge PR blow,” he said.

Goldman Sachs analyst Richard Safran wrote in a note to investors Friday that he, too, expects 787 deliveries to be delayed, possibly into the third quarter of 2009.

“Boeing continues to underestimate the amount of work required on the 787,” Safran wrote. The analyst cut his expectations for deliveries in 2009 to 50 planes from 80 and lowered his 2008 earnings forecast for Boeing to $6.90 per share from $7.00. But he made no changes to his 2008 or 2010 estimates.

The 787 will be the world’s first large commercial airplane made mostly of carbon-fiber composites, which are lighter and more durable than the metals used in most planes today. Boeing has said it will save fuel and be cheaper to maintain than comparable planes flying today.

But the 787 program has been hit by a series of delays caused largely by work that had to be done on the final assembly line after it was not handled at supplier factories as planned.

Originally, Boeing planned to test-fly the 787 in August or September last year and deliver the first plane to All Nippon Airways in May.

Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Leach said that deliveries could happen in early 2009 and the assessment isn’t complete. The company has received orders for around 850 of the 787 from more than 50 customers.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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