Jon Ostrower/Washington, DC
This piece was originally authored late Thursday for Air Transport Intelligence
Boeing will hold the 747-8 line in place from 6 May until 7 June, to allow it to catch up on design changes as it introduces the new -8I passenger model into its production system, though the company’s 2011 delivery target remains unchanged despite evaluating an effect on its delivery schedule.
“The process of starting up the regular production of the 747-8 Intercontinental has created some challenges best addressed at this early stage in the ramp-up,” says Boeing.
Boeing is currently ramping up 747-8 output from 1.5 to 2 aircraft per month, with the goal of reaching that target in 2012, and will hold the line from advancing over the next month in favour of incorporating design changes from flight test and completing unfinished work inside the factory.
In recent weeks, program sources say the number of assembly tasks, or jobs, has continuously crept up, even as additional machinists have been moved to the factory floor to tackle the unfinished work.
Despite holding in place the line for a calendar month, Boeing still intends to deliver between 12 and 20 747-8s in 2011, the first freighter mid-year and the first passenger model by year end.
The company told the Seattle Times it is “evaluating the effect on the delivery schedule” for those aircraft to follow after first 747-8F delivery in 2011, but tells Flightglobal: “We’re staying close to our customers to make sure they understand our manufacturing and delivery plans.”
Including the final fuselage and wing body join position, Boeing has another three 747-8s in the final assembly process, while accommodating additional aircraft in various states of assembly from wing and fuselage build up, to systems installation and wing stub join spread across the factory’s 40-21 and 40-22 buildings.
“Completing this work in the factory also will ensure that airplanes travel to the flight line in the most complete state possible, and minimize work required on the flight line,” adds Boeing, which plans to use its Global Service & Support facility in San Antonio to conduct refurbishment of its flight test aircraft.
Read the complete statement to program personnel from 747 vice president and general manager Elizabeth Lund after the jump.
Building a healthy production system
As you know, 2011 is without a doubt one of the most exciting years the 747 program has ever seen – we have two amazing airplanes in the air, on the path to certification, and delivery to eager customers around the world. The airplanes are performing beautifully in flight test, and airlines around the world are taking notice. Demand for our great airplanes is on the rise – so much so that we’re gearing up for a 33 percent increase in production rate.
That’s a big jump, and one that’s going to require we have a production system that’s as healthy as possible. But, as sometimes happens during introduction of a new minor model, the process of starting up the regular production of the 747-8 Intercontinental has created some challenges best addressed at this early stage in the ramp-up.
So we are going to rebalance the work on the 747-8 production line over the next few weeks, so that we can complete some unfinished work, incorporate design changes driven by discoveries in flight test and make sure we have a healthy production line as we move up in rate next year.
While we rebalance our production line, work will continue on all our airplanes in all stages of production. Airplanes will remain in the same position along the line from May 6 through June 7 so that we can make sure that, when June 8 arrives, all the work that needs to be done on our airplanes is done at the right position on the line. Rebalancing work is a tough challenge, but it’s a proven approach and the right thing to do now to make sure we deliver the best airplanes to our customers with the highest quality possible today, and to maintain that quality as we move up in rate next year.
Your leaders will share with you detailed plans on how unfinished work will be completed and your specific role in accomplishing that task. But while we have worked hard to create the best plan possible, we know it’s not going to be perfect. That’s why I absolutely depend on you to help us overcome the inevitable challenges we’ll face and to do everything you can to ensure that when we resume our normal factory schedule June, we’ll have a production line that’s healthy and ready to run at full speed.
I know how hard you work every day to build these great airplanes, and I’m counting on your continued dedication as we work through this challenge. I know we have the right team to accomplish this tough job and deliver to our customers an airplane we know they’ll love.
Thanks for all you do.
Vice-President & General Manager 747 Program