Boeing still expects to meet its 737 delivery target this year despite facing a significant logistical hurdle imposed by the recent collapse of a railway bridge used to transport fuselages.
The company has since the 1960s received 737 fuselages shipped by rail from Wichita, where the fuselages are now produced by Spirit AeroSystems, to its assembly site near Seattle.
That route crosses the Twin Bridges bridge over the Yellowstone River in Montana.
But on 24 June, a train on that track derailed while crossing the bridge. The bridge collapsed, and 10 rail cars – none, apparently, carrying 737 fuselages – plunged into the river, according to the Stillwater County government in Montana.
Crews have since removed train cars and bridge debris from the water. The work of building a new bridge has been started, but “there is no timeline currently available regarding completion”, says the county.
Despite the trouble, Boeing is optimistic it has found a solution that will enable it to meet its goal of delivering 400 to 450 737s in 2023.
“Production and deliveries continue, and we don’t expect that this issue will change our full-year guidance,” Boeing tells FlightGlobal. “We are working closely with officials to minimise local disruption caused by the bridge collapse while maintaining our customer commitments.”
The logistics have become complicated.
Boeing says it is working with “crane and trucking services” to bypass the bridge. The fuselages are being shipped by train from Wichita to near the collapsed bridge, then transferred by crane onto trucks for transport across the river. The fuselages are then being loaded back onto trains, bound for Boeing’s assembly site in Renton.
“Boeing has worked with railway and government officials to develop a way to safely transport airplane sub-assemblies around the affected section,” the company says.