Boeing re-affirms 787 delivery guidance

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Maintaining its goal of 35 to 42 787 deliveries in 2012, Boeing's Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh says the company is considering ramping up production at its North Charleston, South Carolina final assembly line to further bolster the advance to 10 787s per month at the end of 2013.

"I've seen nothing to date that leads me to believe that we won't deliver all the 787s we have in our plan by the end of the year," says Albaugh, who was speaking at the JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense conference in New York.

Having delivered five 787s to date since September 2011, all to Japan's All Nippon Airways, Boeing output has slowed due to required repairs to the aft fuselage section of certain 787s following the discovery of improper shimming on the support structure.

Japan Airlines, the second customer for the 787, will take delivery of its first aircraft in "the weeks to come", says Albaugh.

The primary Everett, Washington line has broken from rate 2.5 to 3.5 per month at two of five factory positions, with Airplane 61 in the Position One final body join and Airplane 62 in pre-integration at Position 0.

Boeing anticipates moving to five aircraft per month later in the autumn.

Albaugh expects Airplane 66 to be its first 787 that will not require change incorporation work following final assembly, an assessment that has extended beyond previous internal assessments that Airplane 63 would be the company's first "right to pre-flight" 787.

Change incorporation operations will continue into 2014 as Boeing works through the stock of aircraft already through final assembly and awaiting delivery at its Everett widebody base.

The company does not yet count the Charleston line towards its total programme rate, though Albaugh says he expects it to be part of the three fully operational assembly lines running a year from now, including the surge and primary lines in Washington.

The first 787 built in South Carolina, Airplane 46, an example for Air India, will depart the factory in mid-April and "fly away" in June per the company's current planning, says Albaugh.

"Things are going very well in South Carolina and there could be an opportunity to go up in rate there a little quicker than we anticipated, but I don't want to get ahead of myself and make commitments that we can't meet," says Albaugh.

"I think there are enough skeptics out there about our ability to go to 10 [per month]. And barring any unforeseen events, I think we can do it," he adds.

Boeing's Charleston aft and mid-body fabrication and integration facilities remain at the top of Albaugh's list of supply chain "pinch points" to watch as the 787 accelerates rate, citing a growing comfort with non-Boeing suppliers compared to the airframer's operations.

"By and large the supply chain is in pretty good shape," he says.