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deliveries to customers. Many aircraft have been
partially assembled and await completion for various
reasons. The reasons for the delays that have affected
the programme include : hold-ups in deliver y of
parts and sub -assemblies from worldwide suppliers;
provision of incomplete “work packag es”, rushed
through in attempts to meet ambitious production
schedules; a fire aboard a test aircraft; a damaging
strike at Boeing ; and structural design weaknesses
that required repairs.
A large part of next year is expected to be devoted
by Boeing to clearing this manufacturing bottleneck .
At the beginning of 2011’s se cond half, the value
of inventory held up was put at US$16.2 billion.
Recently, there have been up to 35 unfinished 787s
parked around the Everett factory near Seattle and
elsewhere, including some awaiting completion at
San Antonio, Texas.
While working to overcome these snag s, Boeing
must manag e a steady increa se in production to meet
its current schedules. According to New York analyst
Bernstein Research, Boeing could need as long as nine
months more than previously expected to achieve its
planned output target of ten aircraft a month, which
it hopes to achieve before the end of 2013.
“ We assume a slower production [rate increase]
than Boeing’s plan : ten per month reached [only]
in late 2014,” Bernstein says. J P Morgan aerospace
analyst Joe Nadol also forecasts that Boeing will not
reach its output target until 2014, meaning there
would be 105 deliveries that year, rather than the 120
suggested by Boeing.
Bernstein researchers even go so far as to question
when the programme could break even : “It appears
unlikely that Boeing will deliver a positive gross
margin over an initial accounting block of 1,000
But the research firm
acknowledges that myriad
considerations are involved
and that the manufact urer
is more optimistic in its
own assumptions. B oeing
has stated that it does not
expect to lose money on the
first 1,000 machines.
Boeing’s new South Carolina
final assembly line has been
receiving major structural
sections for 787 Number 46,
the first to be put together at
the North Charleston plant.
On 22 Aug ust, the Section
47/48 rear fuselag e arrived
from the nearby, former
Vought Aircraft Industries
plant to join the wings, centre and for ward fuselag e
sections with the empennag e structures that have
accumulated since late June. The centre fuselage
of Aircraft 46 was used to test new tooling on the
third of Charleston’s structural-join and systems-
integration “pulse” lines, where Aircraft 57 is thought
to be the next 787 for final assembly.
On the way to its ten per month production target,
Boeing is hoping in September to accelerate monthly
assembly rates from two to 2.5 . The assembly line at
Everett wa s stopped for more than four weeks from
11 July – the fifth such “hold” since April 2010 – as
the manufacturer introduced design changes and
finished outstanding work on sub -assemblies not
completed by suppliers.
Assembly resumed with the delivery of the Se ction
41 for ward fuselag e for Aircraft 45, the first for
United Continental. The new 2.5 per month build
rate is expected to run up to the end of this year.
Boeing Commercial Airplane chief executive Jim
Albaugh says the three main challenges to increasing
production are introducing flight-test driven design
changes, making sure suppliers can keep up, and
ensuring the skill of workers at North Charleston,
which includes some new to the industry. Boeing has
been transferring workers from its (former McDonnell
Douglas) plant at Long Beach (California) and
Florida’s Space Shuttle Orbiter Processing Facility.
Albaugh points out that a ste ep learning cur ve is
involved because of the much higher proportion of
carbon-fibre reinforced plastic components in the
787 structure, compared with earlier designs which
have been mostly made of aluminium alloy.
Still, this challenge has not dampened interest
among workers aspiring to work for Boeing in South
Carolina. When the state-sponsored ‘ReadySC’
industry training programme opened for applications
in mid-August, the website was inundated with
enquiries and the deadline had to be quickly extended
to accommodate demand. More than 3,800 people
applied ag ainst a requirement for 1,000 qualified
In a previous ReadySC recruitment drive in
late 2009, about 10,000 people applied, yielding
a pool of acceptable potential hires that has since
been used up. Boeing is perceived to offer workers
compensation above the regional average. There are
about 5,000 Boeing employees and contractors at
North Charleston, including workers at two existing
factories. The manufacturer has been hiring about 20
people a month for the new third plant housing 787
assembly, which is expected to employ 3,800 workers.
Separately, Boeing expected to deliver its first 747-
8 – the first of 78 freighter variants ordered by 12
customers – in early-to-mid September, following
formal US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)
and European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)
airworthiness approval issued on 19 August.
The timing of the handover has been driven by the
first flight of the machine (MSN RC502), which
Luxembourg-based launch customer Cargolux was
expecting at the end of Aug ust. A second Cargolux
747-8F should be handed over later in September,
with Asian operator Cathay Pacific Cargo receiving
its own first pair – out of ten ordered – during
September, while Atlas Air receives its first aircraft
Powered by four General Electric GEnx-2B67
engines, the 442,000kg (975,000lb) maximum take-
off weight 747-8F has logged more than 3,400 hours
of flight time in the 18 months since its maiden
flight on 8 February last year. The aircraft features
a fuselage stretch of 5.6m (18ft 4in) compared
with the current 747-400F, giving carriers 16
percent more re venue capacity – e quivalent to four
additional main-deck cargo pallets and three belly
Certification evaluations of the 747-8
Intercontinental passenger variant were continuing
in late Aug ust as Boeing tested stability and control,
and aerodynamic flutter. Airflow balancing tests
through the 467-seat cabin have been completed,
with Boeing expecting certification and deliver y of
an initial corporate variant by the end of 2011.
That first aircraft, for which testing began in
March, will be completed as a Boeing Business Jet.
German carrier Lufthansa is scheduled to receive the
first airline example of the type early next year.
Meanwhile, the manufacturer has be en awaiting
an imminent International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) announcement on the
wake-separation requirements that will be applied
to the 747-8. Hoping to retain the 747-400’s 4nm
(7.4km) required separation, Boeing has filed vortex
information to ICAO, saying that e valuation results
have been “in line with [expe ctations]”.
AsianAviation | SEPTEMBER 2011 33
The first 787 will be handed over to launch
customer All Nippon Airways on 26 September.
2/09/11 5:56 PM
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