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Boeing holds to 787 delivery targets

Keywords: Tags  Boeing, lithium-ion, battery, aircraft, aerospace, titanium, 787, Dreamliner 777


LOS ANGELES — Fresh off winning approval of a fix to its 787 Dreamliner after it was grounded for three months, aerospace giant Boeing Co. is still aiming to meet this year’s original delivery forecasts for the aircraft.

Despite what will amount to a nearly four-month hiatus in 787 deliveries, Boeing still intends to deliver "greater than 60 787s during 2013," chairman, president and chief executive officer Jim McNerney said during a conference call with securities analysts April 24.

Boeing stopped delivering 787s in January and grounded planes already in service after two high-profile lithium-ion battery failures, although the company’s suppliers said they were instructed to continue producing Dreamliner parts and components (amm.com, Jan. 17).

Once the Federal Aviation Administration approved Boeing’s proposed battery fix late last week, the company "immediately" began to install new batteries on the 10 aircraft already in service and on nine production planes, he said. Deliveries will resume in early May.

"Production health on the 787 continues to improve and we remain on track to increase the rate to 10 per month by year-end," McNerney said.

While McNerney said Boeing has achieved a "rate break" to seven 787s per month, a Boeing spokesman later explained that—while the supply chain is working at a monthly pace of seven planes, as are the 787’s final assembly lines in Everett, Wash., and North Charleston, S.C.—its rollout target of seven planes per month still won’t be reached until mid-year, as previously planned.

McNerney also confirmed during the call that the Chicago-based company plans to switch from a primarily aluminum wing to an "all-new composite wing" for the next version of the wide-body 777X aircraft, which it expects will enter the market "around the end of the decade."

One of the 777X’s biggest beneficiaries could be the titanium industry, sources said. The titanium buy-weight content of the plane’s earlier versions had been estimated 120,000 to 140,000 pounds, depending on whether the engine is included.

Another industry likely to benefit from Boeing’s decision to use a composite wing is fasteners. Industry sources estimate that greater use of titanium fasteners as well as other products that come in contact with composites could raise the plane’s titanium buy-weight by 5 to 10 percent.

"This is a big composite wing," McNerney said.

Boeing reported earnings of $1.11 billion for the three months ended March 31 vs. $923 million in the year-ago quarter on revenues of $18.89 billion, down from $19.38 billion in the same comparison.

In other first-quarter news, Boeing picked General Electric Co. as the sole source of the 777X’s new engine, the company said.


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