767 gets new digs at Boeing plant
Company marks production of the 1,000th 767 airliner.
Beginning with aircraft number 1,001, Boeing will build its 767 in an area of its Everett factory that takes up 44 percent less space than the original production line. The move, which took 13 months to complete, was done to make room for a temporary assembly line of Boeing's delayed 787 Dreamliner.
“We would not have made the investment we made” if Boeing didn't see demand for the 767, said Jim Albaugh, president of commercial airplanes division, at an Everett ceremony.
Boeing is offering the Air Force a tanker based on its 767 commercial aircraft in a $35 billion contest to replace 179 Eisenhower-era KC-135 tankers. The competition would keep Boeing's 767 busy in Everett for years to come. Without it, Boeing has a backlog of roughly 50 unfilled orders, which would take until 2013 to finish building.
Albaugh believes new orders for the commercial 767 could be on the way, thanks to the cost efficiencies the company was able to come up with for their tanker bid. He also sees a greater demand for widebody aircraft like the 767 than Boeing and its rival, Airbus, can satisfy. EADS, Airbus' parent company, is competing against Boeing for the Air Force contract with an Airbus A330-based tanker.
The Air Force recently came under fire in Congress after the Air Force gave Boeing and EADS information about one another's tanker bids. The Pentagon is going forward with the competition and plans to announce a winner as early as this month.
“I do wish I knew what happened” with the bid mix-up, Albaugh said. “One thing we want is a level playing field.”
This is the Air Force's third attempt at awarding a tanker contract.
Boeing's new 767 line, which takes up the back part of its original bay in the factory, is ramping up to a rate of two 767s monthly, said Darrel Larson, director of 767 manufacturing. That's the maximum production rate the Air Force said it would require for its tanker contest. “We'll demonstrate we can meet that this year,” Larson said.
Boeing believes this will give it an edge in the tanker contest. EADS will assemble its tanker in Alabama but hasn't built its factory there yet.
Even in its smaller space, the 767 is being built 20 to 30 percent more efficiently than the first 1,000 planes, Larson said.
Boeing's 747 jumbo jet is the only other widebody jet that has reached the 1,000-plane mark.
“You don't arrive at a milestone like this without excellent product,” said Kim Pastega, general manager of the 767 program.
Michelle Dunlop: email@example.com; 425-339-3454.
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