SEATTLE (AP) _ Two Boeing Co. suppliers say they have been told the company plans to cut airplane production in the Puget Sound area nearly in half by late spring, The Seattle Times reported Wednesday.

Meanwhile, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Continental Airlines is negotiating with Boeing to defer delivery of an unspecified number of the 84 planes the carrier had ordered for 2002 through 2005. Total price for the aircraft is about $4 billion.

``The company is in discussions with Boeing concerning the deferral of some of its firm order aircraft,'' Continental said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission cited by the P-I.

The reports underscore the impact of the aviation industry slump since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11 on Boeing, which has begun preparations to lay off as many as 30,000 employees in commercial aircraft production and shared services.

Boeing's forecast for deliveries has been cut by 38 planes for this year and to the low 400s from 510 to 520 planes for 2002, but the production rates cited by the suppliers indicate even fewer planes may be delivered.

A revised forecast of aircraft deliveries is expected Thursday when Boeing releases third-quarter financial results.

Officials at Boeing, based in Chicago, would not comment on production rates, which two unidentified suppliers told The Times would drop from 43 to 23 monthly in Renton and Everett by June 1.

The decline would amount to $19 billion a year in the value of airplanes made in the Seattle area.

Meanwhile, Houston-based Continental said in an SEC filing Monday that 24 of the 26 planes to be delivered through March 2002 have been prefinanced and will be accepted on schedule, the P-I reported.

Of the remaining 60 planes scheduled before November 2005, Continental said it has ``backstop financing'' available from Boeing for 13 widebody jets, subject to negotiation of certain terms.