LOS ANGELES RTI
International Metals Inc. is approaching its profitability
benchmark for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, although its not
yet ready to predict that it will begin making money on the
much-delayed aircraft in 2013.
Chicago-based Boeing Co. has
told RTI that it should continue to work on the titanium seat
tracks it builds for the 787, despite the well-publicized
problems the aircraft has had with its lithium-ion batteries,
according to Dawne S. Hickton, RTIs vice chairwoman,
president and chief executive officer.
"In consultation with our
customers at Boeing, including meetings that I attended as
recently as last week in Montreal, we have been advised to
proceed with our schedule to produce more than 75 shipsets this
year, which is an increase of over 30 from 2012," Hickton said
during a quarterly conference call with investors.
Boeing and the Federal Aviation
Administration are continuing to evaluate the 787, trying to
find a fix for the battery problems that have grounded the 50
Dreamliners already delivered. Boeing has a backlog of about
800 orders for the Dreamliner.
Pittsburgh-based RTI had said
earlier that it would need to reach a consistent build rate of
six shipsets per month in order to reach profitability on its
787 work (
amm.com, Feb. 9). Like many Dreamliner suppliers,
it previously expressed frustration with the programs
slow pace, which only recently began to pick up steam after
falling behind its original schedule by more than three
However, RTI isnt yet
predicting that the increase in seat track production will make
its 787 work profitable this year. RTI wont see the full
impact of Boeings ramp-up until the second half of this
year, a company spokesman noted.
Moreover, "its a little
early to talk profitability" on RTIs 787 role until
various issues associated with the Dreamlinersuch as the
batteriesare resolved, he said. He did agree, however,
that this years planned increase represents progress.
Unlike some of its counterparts
in the titanium industry, RTIs primary role on the 787
isnt as a supplier of mill products but as a manufacturer
of seat tracks at its RTI Claro unit in Montreal. Its top
customer for mill products is Boulogne-Billancourt,
France-based aircraft builder Airbus SAS. Its shipments to
Airbus rose to more than 6 million pounds in 2012, due in part
to the inability of another supplier to provide material, and
are expected to end up "a bit less" than 6 million pounds this
year, Hickton said.
The Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint
Strike Fighter accounted for about 2 million pounds of mill
product shipments last year and is expected to account for
approximately the same amount in 2013, she said.