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787 should help region's economy for decades

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By John Wolcott
Special to The Herald
  • The first Boeing 787 for United Airlines nears completion at the Boeing assembly plant in Everett on Sunday. Work on the 787 and other planes will lik...

    Michael O'Leary/The Herald

    The first Boeing 787 for United Airlines nears completion at the Boeing assembly plant in Everett on Sunday. Work on the 787 and other planes will likely help the economy in Snohomish County for many years to come.

EVERETT -- Snohomish County's economy and employment levels will benefit for decades from the Boeing Co.'s launch of its new 787 Dreamliner into passenger service Monday.
The obvious reason is the 787's roster of 821 orders from more than 50 airlines, work that could take a decade to deliver, even with a production ramp-up in Everett and help from Boeing's 787 production plant in South Carolina.
The Everett plant, where an estimated 30,000 workers are employed in three daily shifts, is at the heart of Boeing's future.
In six production bays -- the original plant built in the late 1960s to produce the first 747s had only three -- Boeing is still building improved models of its 747 jumbo jet, the venerable 767 that will soon be transformed into hundreds of new aerial refueling tankers for the U.S. Air Force, the globally popular 777 that dominates its market and the new high-tech 787.
Having years of backlogged production on the books for four of the world's most popular aircraft bodes well for the county's economy as well as for Boeing, the Pacific Northwest and the nation's export numbers.
New 787 customers continue to show up as the plane nears its operational stage and many more orders are expected in coming years. One of the latest orders came in September for 25 787-9 Dreamliners for Air France-KLM Group, its first 787 purchase, with options to buy 25 more.
Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, took that longer view, predicting that the delivery of the first 787 "begins a new chapter in aviation history."
Although his view reflects the enthusiasm that might be expected of the head of the company, others agree.
Aviation industry analyst Scott Hamilton of Issaquah, an avid Boeing watchdog writing for, also believes the new 787 Dreamliner is revolutionary, even following "a bumpy ride in the 787's production system. ... Make no mistake, the delivery of the first 787 (is) a milestone in commercial aviation."
Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx said last week that there's "really no competitor to this airplane (in its market space)."
The 787 is unique in many ways, including its heavy use of composite materials, an advanced form of plastic. It's also produced differently, in interlocking segments that should speed production.
The company hopes to produce 10 787s per month and put the 787-9 into service by late 2013 .
While noting it has some work to do to reach those production goals, Bernstein Research in New York predicts the 787 program will deliver a unit profit margin similar to "Boeing's highly lucrative 777, of which the 777-300ER and 777F have become the cash cow of the company in terms of profitability."
Story tags » 787



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