Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Boeing "is not seeing the improvement anticipated" for its production-recovery programme on the Next Generation 737, admits Commercial Airplanes Group president Ron Woodard. The number of jobs behind schedule have stayed essentially static since October, despite Boeing's efforts to "rebalance" the 737 production line.

Woodard says that behind- schedule jobs on the Next Generation 737 line decreased from 3,650 on 1 October to 3,180 by 15 December. In contrast, jobs behind schedule on the 747 line, which was halted for 20 days in November, decreased from 14,000 on 1 October to 2,919 by 15 December.

The reason for the lack of progress, he says, was the major effort required to certificate the first Next Generation 737, the 737-700. The company will focus on jobs behind schedule in the new year, Woodard says, as the production rate is increased from seven to 14 a month by the second quarter.

Boeing is focused on delivering the backlog of 28 737-700s now being modified with changes resulting from the certification programme. Woodard expects these aircraft to have been delivered by the end of the first quarter of 1998. The first 737-700 was handed over to Southwest Airlines on 17 December.

Overall, progress with the production-recovery plan is "satisfactory", he says. Jobs behind schedule on all types are down by 40% since 1 October and are 500 below plan. Woodard still expects to "tender for delivery" 335 Boeing aircraft (excluding the MD models built at Long Beach) by the end of 1997, although he cautions that "four to eight" may not be handed over because customers are not ready to take delivery.

No fewer than 36 aircraft are to be delivered in the second half of December, compared with 17 in the first half and 24 (one fewer than planned) for all of November.

Boeing is to reduce its commercial-aircraft group employment by 12,000 by the end of 1998, but Woodard says that no cuts will be made before mid-year, by which time production is expected to have recovered to the planned efficiency levels. Chairman Phil Condit expects most of the cuts to be achieved through natural attrition.

The cuts are contingent on achieving the planned production efficiencies, Condit stresses. "We've been about as inefficient as we could have been," admits Boeing president Harry Stonecipher.

Source: Flight International