Boeing mulls further 737 rate rise

Washington DC
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Boeing is considering increasing its Next Generation 737 output to 42 aircraft a month.

This would come on top of two planned rate increases to be phased in by 2013, as the manufacturer continues to feel "upward pressure" to build the aircraft faster.

"We're taking a very hard look at going to 42 and we will make that decision probably some time this summer," said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh at the company's annual investor day on 24 May.

The airframer plans the first rate increase, from 31.5 aircraft a month to 35, in early 2012, followed by a second increase to 38 in the second quarter of 2013, both record production rates of Boeing single-aisle aircraft.

The company's capital and manpower investments on the 737, including 1,200 new staff and a 7,000m² (75,000ft²) facility to handle buyer-furnished equipment such as seats and galleys, has taken the airframer to a production capacity of 42 aircraft a month.

"We're sold out on the 737 through 2015, we're sold out on the 787 through 2019. And one of the biggest challenges that we have is having the slots for our customers, and that's why we're going up in rate," said Albaugh of the 43% increase in Boeing commercial output by the beginning of 2014.

With a goal of meeting 10 787s a month across its Everett primary, surge and Charleston lines by the end of 2013, Albaugh hinted the company could begin to consider moving beyond that output in the years to follow.

"If we can get to 10, we can probably get to 11. And if we can get to 11, we can get to 12, and we're not done on this programme yet," he said.

Further, Albaugh said a push in 777 rate to 10 aircraft a month remains unlikely, emphasising the company's plans to remain at 8.3 aircraft a month for at least two years.

"What you don't want to do is be in a situation where you go up and you have to come down. We're still looking at it, but I'd be surprised if we went up to 10," added Albaugh. Further capital expenditure would be required to move the rate beyond the 8.3 a month target of the first quarter 2013, said Albaugh.