By Guy Norris in Los Angeles & Max Kingsley-Jones in London
Boeing will decide by the end of June on whether to further accelerate 787 production to as many as 16 per month after continuing record demand for the new twinjet.
Boeing artist's impression
The manufacturer has won 393 orders and commitments worth more than $55 billion since the 787’s launch in April 2004. Programme vice president and general manager Mike Bair says the company is "in the middle of looking at what production rate we should support, post-2010". He adds: "There’s physically no limit, it’s just an investment decision."
Suppliers have already agreed to support a faster-than-planned increase following a study in 2005 and the latest evaluation considers an even greater escalation.
The line is now "completely committed" as far as early 2011, although several positions are also booked as far out as 2016, says Bair. Boeing last year found slots for an additional 16 aircraft by the end of 2009 to bring deliveries to 112 for the first two years of production which officially begins with the start of major assembly of the first Fuji Heavy Industries-made wingbox on 27 June in Japan. The first 787 is due to make its maiden flight in August 2007 and enter service with launch customer All Nippon Airways in mid-2008.
Although the manufacturer does not discuss production rates, it acknowledges that there are plans to go well beyond its widebody record of seven per month achieved with the 777.
According to figures obtained by Flight International, the planned ramp-up in 787 production will take place in several phases. The initial rate will launch at four per month, rising to six per month within one year. The rate then increases to 10 per month in 2010 under the current rate acceleration plan agreed under the initial study.
The latest study is understood to focus on the investment required to go to 14 and even 16 per month in a phased-in build-up over 2011-2012 and beyond. This period will include the development of the ‘double-stretch’ 787-10 variant which is currently timed to enter service "towards the back end of 2012, or perhaps early 2013", says 787 general manager Mike Bair.
The rate increase is dependent on the availability of the Boeing 747-400LCF (Large Cargo Freighter) development which is underway in Taiwan at EGAT (Evergreen Aviation Technologies Corporation), a joint venture between EVA Air and General Electric.
Certification of the modified aircraft is due to be completed by the end of 2006 with entry-into-service on the production sub-assembly delivery flights due in early 2007.