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At Boeing's giant facility in Everett near Seattle there is a parking lot full of 787 Dreamliners.

Two dozen planes sit idle because the project to build the next generation airliner has stalled yet again.

Boeing says Air New Zealand is still due to get its first 787-9 at the end of 2013, but that now looks unlikely.

After an electrical fire on one of the test aircraft last month the 787 has been grounded, with no word yet on when testing can continue.

This week the Seattle Times said the jet programme was in worse shape than it seemed, with a cascade of systems failures after the fire and manufacturing problems.

Yesterday Boeing's regional director of product marketing, Justin Hale, would not comment on industry speculation that the latest setback would add six to nine months to the delivery time.

"When the aircraft will resume flight testing is still to be determined."

Asked what the aircraft manufacturer was telling its customers Hale said it was "a difficult conversation".

"The challenges of bringing this airplane to market have bit us. We have mobilised every company resource to try to deal with it."

Air Transport World senior editor Geoffrey Thomas described the 787 project as "Boeing's Sydney Opera House".

The setbacks had caused extreme inconvenience for the world's airlines. "One of the biggest problems is it's been a rolling delay, so you really can't make any other plans to buy other airplanes or refurbish other planes."

Air NZ group general manager of international Ed Sims said having to wait up to nine more months for its first 787 would constrain the airline.

The national carrier's order of eight Dreamliners is a key part of its strategy to develop new routes such as Mumbai and South American destinations.

Sims said the concern was Air NZ would lose competitive advantage as the global downturn ended.