Boeing on track to build 60 Dreamliners in 2013

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Dec. 19, 2013

The Boeing Co.’s Lowcountry and Puget Sound operations are on track to build 60 787 Dreamliners this year, Boeing South Carolina Vice President Jack Jones said Thursday.

Boeing South Carolina Vice President Jack Jones expects the Lowcountry and Puget Sound operations to produce up to 12 Dreamliners a month by 2016. (Photo by Kim McManus)
Boeing South Carolina Vice President Jack Jones expects the Lowcountry and Puget Sound operations to produce up to 12 Dreamliners a month by 2016. (Photo by Kim McManus)

Boeing nose
Boeing S.C. crews work on a 787 Dreamliner in the company's plant in North Charleston today. (Photo/Kim McManus)

Boeing is currently producing roughly 10 787s a month. It plans to produce up to 12 airplanes a month by 2016 and up to 14 a month by 2019. The North Charleston midbody facility is working to make operations more efficient in preparation of the rate increase, Jones said.

“Four years ago, there was nothing here,” Jones said to a group of reporters during a media briefing at the North Charleston facility today.

The Lowcountry operations could expand with the 787 family. The Lowcountry operations will always build the aft and midbody for all Dreamliner models, beginning with the 787-9 next fall, Jones said.  The 787-9 is currently assembled in Everett, Wash.

As for the 787-10, the final assembly site will be announced in the first quarter of 2014, Jones said.

Following the battery and electrical issues it experienced earlier this year, Boeing South Carolina resumed 787 airplane production in April and began delivering them in June. Boeing’s Lowcountry and Puget Sound operations had their 12-month timeline to assemble 60 planes cut in half.

“Our guidance was roughly 60 787s for the year. We didn’t back off of that one airplane. ... We are averaging around nine to 10 a month. Right now, we seem to be on track to get our guidance of 60 airplanes this year,” Jones said.

Jones stayed mum on the 777X site selection process. He declined to answer any questions about the production and assembly sites for the future aircraft, nor did he respond as to whether the Lowcountry has either the workforce or the logistics to support it.

“I can’t comment on that, because I haven’t been asked,” Jones said. “I’m not privy to whether or not this state has even participated in this process.”

Earlier this month, Boeing leased 468 acres, up from the originally planned 267 acres, amid the race for the 777X. Jones said the land is for future expansion options.

“Now that we have the land, there is no plan on the side or some secret. We’ve got the land. We’ve got the flexibility, and that’s where we are,” Jones said. “We’re ready to go if our corporation says we want you to do ‘x’ work.”

Looking forward, Jones said South Carolina’s state and education leaders need to focus on science, engineering, technology and math education to prepare a workforce for Boeing’s future growth in the Lowcountry.

He said Boeing South Carolina’s nearly 7,000 employees need more experience in building planes, which they are getting.

Regarding comments from some Machinists union members in Washington state about the lack of skilled labor in South Carolina, Jones said it is “not true” and that they have stayed “exactly on plan” with the production schedule.

Boeing is in what’s called a “quiet period” in which it cannot answer specific questions about numbers of planes that have been delivered or its production rates, Jones said. Boeing will announce its fourth-quarter results on Jan. 29.

“I can’t say the rates, but the mechanics here, who two and a half years ago had never built a commercial airplane before, have doubled their production,” Jones said. “That’s very significant when you’re talking about a workforce that started out inexperienced in building airplanes.”

Subscribe to the Charleston Regional Business Journal to read the full story in the Jan. 13 issue.

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or on Twitter @lizsegrist.

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