737 output ‘may plunge to 21 a month in 2010’

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Boeing 737 production rates could shrink to as low as 21 aircraft a month in 2010, say its US suppliers.

GKN Aerospace chief executive Marcus Bryson, who returned from a tour of US customers last week, says Boeing suppliers are "starting to talk in terms" of dramatic output cuts.

Bryson says he expects cuts in single-aisle output at Airbus and Boeing. He is sticking to his January forecast of A320 output dropping to 30 a month this year, and adds the impact on GKN - which acquired the Airbus wing components manufacturing operation at Filton, Bristol in January - would be limited owing to the company's relatively small involvement in the current generation of Airbus and Boeing single-aisle aircraft and be offset by ramp-up of Boeing 787 and Lockheed Martin F-35 production.

boeing
 © Boeing

Output of A320s now stands at 34 a month, down from 36, and Boeing is turning out 31 737s. Boeing in April announced a cut in its 777 production rate to five a month from seven after June next year, but said it was holding 737 output steady.

Bryson's observations on single-aisle output mirror an assessment by PricewaterhouseCoopers global aerospace and defence leader Neil Hampson, who says there is much bad news to come from both airframers on their output levels.

The question, he says, is how long they can hold off before delivering a "sober re-evaluation" of the quality of their orderbooks. A comparison of airlines' summer passenger load figures with current expectations could be a trigger point for production realignments, he adds.

Bryson, however, puts single-aisle output levels in context by noting that only a few years ago the mid-20s a month would have been considered good, and that anything in the 30s should be seen as a bubble.