767 earns reprieve as 787 ramp-up considered

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Boeing is studying a faster production ramp-up for the 787 through 2008-10 to meet airline demand and, in a related move, has stayed the execution of the 767 to fulfil what are expected to be “fall-back” sales. The company plans to deliver a total of 95 787s in 2008-9, itself representing a virtually unparalleled production figure for a new commercial model.

However, 787 vice-president and general manager Mike Bair says “we’re looking to see if we can up those numbers and pull the ramp-up forward if we can. The market would take as many as we could produce.” Boeing Commercial Airplanes president Alan Mulally adds: “We’re sold out for the first three years, and it’s an issue – a positive issue.” As a fallout, Boeing appears to have secured new 767 sales as a fall-back, although these have yet to be announced. Mulally says that as a result, “we will not have to make that decision [to shut the line] this year. It looked like we would, but with the additional activity we’re having with customers it looks like we won’t.” He says the availability question on the 787 is “partially the reason for more demand for the 767”.

Bair says the ramp-up study involves “an assessment of our entire supply chain to see if we can do it. We have to see what is a prudent ramp-up, and not an imprudent increase as we did on the 737 Next Generation,” he adds, referring to the production crisis suffered by the company when it prematurely sought to raise 737 production rates in the 1990s.

As of 14 June, Boeing held 266 firm orders and commitments for the 787, and had proposals with more than 20 operators for around 427 additional aircraft.