Boeing Addresses 787 Production, Reliability

Post & Courier (Charleston, SC)

January 27, 2014

Boeing Co. is tackling the twin challenges of higher production and reliability of its 787 Dreamliner.

On Friday, the company announced it rolled out its first 787 built at the rate of 10 airplanes per month, the highest ever for a twin-aisle jet. Its goal is to increase production even higher in two years and again in five years.

At the same time Boeing touted its production success, a Boeing official in Norway?said the plane?s reliability is not where it should be and the company is working to bring the rate up.

Mike Fleming, Boeing s vice president for 787 support and services, said the Dreamliner?s reliability rate is now at 98%, meaning that two out of every 100 flights is delayed, which is above the 97% reported in October but still short of the firm?s target, according to Reuters news agency.

Fleming was speaking in Oslo, where the operator of some trouble-prone 787s is based.

I?ll tell you that?s not where we want the airplane to be. We?re not satisfied with that reliability level of the airplane, Fleming said.

The 777 today flies at 99.4% ... and that?s the benchmark that the 787 needs to attain, he said.

The Dreamliner has experienced numerous problems, including a battery fire that grounded all 787s in service for three months last year before Boeing devised a fix for the issue.

Other issues still facing Boeing include the reliability of flight controls, Reuters reported.

As for its production goals, Boeing said this week it is bringing in a surge of temporary contract workers to its North Charleston campus to meet the company?s higher 787 build-out demands.

Some critics have bashed the North Charleston site as not ready to meet production goals, but aviation analysts Saj Ahmad with Strategic AeroResearch said the South Carolina plant is expected to experience hiccups.

It?s idiotic to assume Charleston could reach the competitive and productive efficiencies of Everett (WA) after just a couple of years, he said. It is going to take time, and Boeing is right to put resources in place to assist Boeing South Carolina?s growth.

The company plans to build 12 787s a month in 2016 and 14 per month by 2019.

Boeing assembles and delivers the 787-8 in North Charleston and Everett, WA. The first plane built under the 10-a-month schedule rolled off the Everett line, Boeing said.

The airplane is the 155th Dreamliner built.

The program has now increased its production rate three times in just over a year, including to five airplanes per month in November 2012 and seven per month in May 2013.

This rate increase reflects the continued strong demand for the 787, said Larry Loftis, general manager of the 787 program for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. A disciplined approach that combined employee teamwork with technology was key to achieving the higher rate.

To date, 115 787s have been delivered to 16 customers. The program has 1,030 total orders from 60 customers worldwide.

The 787-9, a stretch version of the Dreamliner, is assembled in Everett, but starting this fall it will be produced in North Charleston as well. A decision on where the 787-10 will be produced is expected by March.

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