Boeing has confirmed that production of the 747 and 777 will slow next year in response to the economic downturn in Asia. The expected axing of some 12,000 jobs is also beginning as the company overcomes the worst of its fraught production ramp-up.

Boeing's official production rate announcement for 1999, which it hinted at last month, includes the slowing down of 747 production from its current high of five aircraft a month down to 3.5 in the first part of next year. Fred Mitchell, executive vice-president of aircraft production at Boeing Commercial Airplane Group confirms that the move is in response to the economic crisis in Asia, which has caused "some airlines to negotiate slides in deliveries" for the 747 and to substitute orders for smaller aircraft.

Monthly production of the 777, which has only just been restored to seven after Boeing struggled to overcome production problems, will also sink back to five by the end of 1999, but is expected to ramp up again in 2000.

Numbers of Next Generation 737s are to rise to 24 a month, which is according to plan, although the company warns that it will not have a clear picture of how well the line is performing until it has got over the hump of the current doubling of production to 14 a month, to rise to 21 by October.

There is a warning that the plans are likely to result in "the elimination of some Boeing jobs in addition to the 12,000 previously announced", says the company.

The group has yet to announce a formal production rate for the 100-seat 717-200 at Long Beach until nearer first delivery in mid-1999, although unofficially Boeing has been talking about seven a month going up to 10.The latest production forecasts suggest that output from Seattle would be at around 550 aircraft in 1999, marginally above the deliveries expected for this year, though with fewer lucrative widebodies. Analysts believe that the annual rate could stay above 400 through to 2002 as the boom continues.

Source: Flight International