Manufacturer struggles to find production slots for new twinjet as orders and commitments pass 850 mark

Boeing is studying a further ramp- up of planned 787 production from 2009 as it struggles to find available slots for prospective customers, with orders and commitments for the new twinjet now said to have exceeded 850. The firm order backlog includes the first 787s allocated to a leasing company.

Details of the growing firm order list, comprising 256 aircraft for 21 customers, emerged as the first all-composite nose test section was “rolled out” by Spirit AeroSystems – the former Boeing Commercial Airplanes aerostructures operation in Wichita, Kansas.


Mike Bair, 787 vice-president and general manager, says that Boeing still intends to deliver 95 aircraft in 2008-9, “but we are actively looking at the rate in the out years because of the demand, which looks a lot different to other twin-aisles”. Production is now sold out through 2010. “Our biggest problem now is we’re running out of aircraft to sell,” says Bair. A major part of the decision rests on investment needed throughout the supply chain, and whether or not to invest beyond current plans. The infrastructure is being developed to support a three-day final assembly cycle time at Everett, with 747 Large Cargo Freighters delivering parts to enable a rate of up to seven a month by around 2011. The rate question is complicated by the amount of extra investment required by the partners and suppliers. Spirit, for example, will deliver “stuffed” Section 41 forward fuselage subassemblies, including full flight decks, avionics and even nose gears already installed.

The first test barrel measures 7.25m (24ft) long by 5.7m wide, and will be followed by two more test units, including a final 12.8m- long section representative of the production configuration. The first actual production Section 41 will be flown to Everett in April 2007. Spirit is also responsible for the engine pylons, the first of which will be delivered in July 2006, and moveable leading edges that will be handed over for the first time in March 2007. The Tulsa, Oklahoma-based wing component team expects to deliver the first fixed leading-edge units to Mitsubishi Heavy Industries in August 2006.


Source: Flight International