SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co <BA.N> said on Wednesday that it had a serious problem with one of the Rolls-Royce <RR.L> engines on one of its 787 Dreamliner test aircraft, requiring it to be replaced.
The plane manufacturer, whose carbon-composite 787 is already almost three years behind schedule, said it was too early to tell if the setback would delay the plane's testing phase and eventual delivery date.
The incident, called an "engine surge" -- a disruption of airflow that causes a 'backfire' effect -- occurred on the first Dreamliner off the production line. It is one of five 787s in flight tests.
It happened last Friday, prior to takeoff, at Roswell, New Mexico. Boeing said the aircraft and all crew were safe, and it is investigating the incident with Rolls-Royce. The British engine maker could not be reached immediately for comment.
A spare flight test engine has been transported to Roswell, and will be installed and the plane made ready to fly again "in a matter of days," a Boeing spokesman said.
Boeing has been beset with problems on the 787, from design faults, shoddy work by suppliers to a labor strike at its main production facility. The first delivery date is now scheduled for the middle of the first quarter of 2011. The original date was May 2008.
The latest disruption to the schedule was caused by a delay in Rolls-Royce delivering an engine needed for flight tests, which began last December.
Boeing has taken 847 orders for the Dreamliner, which lists for $150 million to $205.5 million depending on the model, making it the company's best-selling airplane at this stage in development. Boeing gets paid for planes at delivery.
(Reporting by Bill Rigby and Kyle Peterson; editing by Carol Bishopric)