Boeing Co. said Tuesday it will pay $580 million in cash for a South Carolina plant where large components of the company’s long-delayed 787 jetliner are built.

The plant makes and installs systems in aft fuselage sections of Boeing’s 787, a next-generation aircraft that has been hampered by repeated delays due to production problems. The delays have cost Boeing credibility and billions of dollars in anticipated expenses and penalties.

The airplane maker said the acquisition of the North Charleston, S.C., plant from Vought Aircraft Industries will boost its capacity to develop and build large plane sections made from lightweight carbon composite parts.

After the transaction, Boeing said Vought will continue its work on many Boeing programs, including other components of the 787, as well as structures and components on the 737, 747, 767, 777, C-17 and V-22 through operations located elsewhere.

As part of the deal, Vought will be released from obligations to repay money that had been advanced earlier.

The deal is expected to close in the third quarter.

It remains unclear when Chicago-based Boeing will conduct the first test flight of the 787, previously scheduled for the second quarter of this year. Deliveries of the new jet were lagging nearly two years behind schedule before the latest 787 program delay was announced last month.

Shares of Boeing slid 66 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $39.90 in morning trading.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.