Boeing broke ground in North Charleston, South Carolina for the second 787 final assembly line today, marking the first all-new commercial jetliner assembly plant in the US since then-Lockheed built its L-1011 final assembly line in Palmdale, California in 1968.

"Today's event marks the beginning of an expansion plan that will strengthen the 787 program and allow us to continue building on the footprint we have established in South Carolina with Boeing Charleston and Global Aeronautica," Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, says in a statement.

"Locating the second line in North Charleston will allow Boeing to successfully compete in the aerospace market and grow for the long-term benefit of many stakeholders," Albaugh adds.

The groundbreaking at the North Charleston site comes just weeks after Boeing announced on 28 October that it had selected the city for the second 787 line.

Charleston 787 Line 

 © Boeing

The estimated $750 million investment in the North Charleston facility also includes the capability to support the testing and delivery of aircraft.

The event also marks the largest expansion in Boeing's commercial production capability since the airframer merged with McDonnell Douglas in 1997 and the first new final assembly plant for the company since it opened its Everett, Washington line in 1967 to support the 747-100 programme.

Boeing Charleston is already responsible for the fabrication, assembly and systems integration of the aft fuselage of the 787.

The North Charleston campus is also home to Global Aeronautica, a 50-50 joint venture with Italy's Alenia Aeronautica, where integration of the 787's centre fuselage takes place. The facility is responsible for the assembly and systems integration of four structural sections from aerostructures manufacturers in Japan and Italy.

The North Charleston line will be operational in July 2011 and will produce its first 787 in the first quarter of 2012.

Boeing plans to build three 787s per month in South Carolina and seven at the company's existing 787 line in Everett.

Boeing plans to add additional 'surge' capacity to its Everett line to meet its 10 787 per month production target by the end of 2013, but will phase out the interim line as the North Charleston line ramps up.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news