Boeing halts 787 line for a month

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Boeing has instituted an approximately one-month hold on the 787 final assembly line and a halt in structural deliveries to its Everett factory due to supplier part "spot shortages" and "remaining engineering changes", the company confirmed, another in a series of halting stops and starts as the production system works to get beyond two aircraft per month.

While the company will not comment on any impact to downstream deliveries, Boeing plans to update to its 2011 delivery guidance on 27 July when it releases its second quarter earnings.

The hold leaves unaffected the August or September first 787 delivery to All Nippon Airways and the company maintains its short and long-term plans to ramp the 787 production line remain unchanged, with plans to advance from two to 2.5 aircraft per month later this summer and 10 per month by the end of 2013.

The line was supposed to have advanced forward during the first week of July, but instead began a 20-manufacturing day hold which is expected to last until the first week of August, says Boeing, which added that production continues on all aircraft.

A typical monthly manufacturing calendar includes 21 days.

This is the company's first 787 line hold in 2011, following four holds in 2010 due to Alenia Aeronautica-built horizontal stabiliser workmanship issues, part shortages and engineering change incorporation.

Airplanes 40, 41, 42 and 43 are currently occupying the four assembly stations inside the Everett factory's 40-26 building, with a full complement of aircraft structures for Airplane 44 at position zero, and wings and horizontal stabiliser for Airplane 45, the first 787 for United-Continental Airlines, now in the factory.

Boeing would not say whether or not it anticipated an upward or downward revision to its 2011 787 delivery guidance, which currently calls for 12 to 20 of the new jets to be in the hands of customers by the end of the year, though customers are already experiencing delays to 2012 deliveries.

ethiopian 787 tail 

 © Jon Ostrower

Ethiopian Airlines regional director for China, Fikre Degife, told the Wall Street Journal the carrier now expected its first 787 in March 2012, a slip of three months from its previous expectation of January. Airplane 44, now holding in place inside the factory, is the second built for the East African carrier and Boeing has not specified which airframe will be handed over first.

United Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek said 9 July the carrier expects to "proudly take delivery of [its first 787] early next year, we hope".

The US carrier will deploy the 228-seat twin-jet on its inaugural Houston to Auckland, New Zealand route, requiring the aircraft to have 330 minutes extended twin engine operations (ETOPs) certification, which is not expected to be available until just before the aircraft's delivery due to a software change required by the US FAA.

Further, the company's new South Carolina facility is in the early stages of beginning work on Airplane 46, an aircraft for Air India, the first 787 to be built outside of Washington state. Final assembly operations are expected to formally begin later this week, with forward fuselage delivery from Spirit AeroSystems anticipated during the third week of July.