Boeing to close 787 re-work in San Antonio

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Boeing is shutting down a four-year old 787 modification and refurbishment line in San Antonio, Texas, despite the last of six flight test aircraft still on the market.

The 787 line that opened on a former US Air Force base now managed by Boeing in April 2010 will close after workers complete refurbishment of Line Number 6 this spring, Boeing says.

The closure means Boeing is reducing staff in San Antonio by up to 600 people, although some could be hired back depending on potential growth at the site, the company says.

Line number 6 is one of the six original 787-8 flight test aircraft that have struggled to be re-sold.

Boeing put the first three 787-8s from the flight test programe into storage after acknowledging it was not economical to convert them into commercial aircraft. The decision forced the company to assign the $2.7 billion cost of the three aircraft to research and development expense, rather than amortise the cost in the accounting block of production aircraft.

In February, Boeing announced that two of the 787s – line numbers 5 and 6 – have been sold to undisclosed custoemrs, leaving only the Rolls-Royce Trent 1000-powered line number 4 still available.

Line number 5, which is powered by the General Electric GEnx-1B turbofan, is being refurbished in Everett, Washington.

Line number 4 is still performing flight tests to support the production programme. It will be refurbished after the tests are completed.

Meanwhile, the company also appears to be working on new plans for the first three aircraft that were assigned to storage.

“There are plans under way for 1-3, but not ready to make any announcements yet,” Boeing says.