Boeing increases 777 rate; Airbus opens A350 line

By Michelle Dunlop Herald Writer

Boeing is on track to speed up production on the Everett-built 777 jet to 8.3 aircraft per month in early 2013.

The jet maker announced Tuesday that it had begun assembly of the first 777 to be built at the higher rate. A section of the 777 aft fuselage for that aircraft was loaded into position. Ultimately, Boeing will deliver the first 777 built at the increased rate, a 777 freighter, to Korean Air in February 2013.

“The preparation the team has done for this historic rate increase has been comprehensive from floor to ceiling,” Scott Fancher, 777 general manager, said in a statement. “We’ve hired and trained hundreds of additional employees and the efforts of the team to get us to this point have been simply outstanding.”

To meet the increased rate, Boeing added new automated equipment on the 777 line, including spray painting and precision drilling equipment.

“This rate increase reflects the strong demand for the 777. It continues to be the clear leader in the 300-400 passenger seat market,” Fancher said.

As Boeing upped the rate on the 777, rival Airbus opened the final assembly line for its new aircraft, the A350XWB. The A350 seats between 270 to 350 passengers.

Airbus officials say the company plans to have a third A350 in final assembly by the end of the year. The jet maker wants to ramp up production on the A350XWB to 10 jets per month by late 2018.

Airbus named the new A350 final assembly site in Toulouse, France, after Roger Béteille, one of Airbus’ founders.

“Innovation is deeply rooted in our DNA and this is fully demonstrated on the A350 XWB, the world’s newest, most advanced airliner,” said Airbus CEO Fabrice Brégier. “Today we honour Roger Béteille, an exceptional aviation pioneer and we name the A350 XWB Final Assembly Line after him, one of our industry’s greatest innovators.”

The A350XWB is a mostly composite jet, similar to the Boeing 787. Boeing plans to increase production on the 787 to a pace of 10 jets monthly by the end of next year.