Boeing rolls out first 787 in South Carolina

“Made with pride in South Carolina.”

The first Boeing Co. airplane built outside the Puget Sound region sported that phrase on the nose when the 787 Dreamliner rolled out of the North Charleston factory Friday.

With one aircraft built in South Carolina, Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, wasted no time putting pressure on workers there to build more jets.

The company, which has more than 840 unfilled orders for the fuel-efficient Dreamliner, plans to be producing at a rate of 10 787s per month by the end of 2013. Boeing has said South Carolina will be assembling three of those aircraft while Boeing’s Everett factory will assemble seven each month.

Still, “It’s not enough,” Albaugh told workers during the Friday ceremony, which was webcast. “If you can build more, we can sell more.”

After the ceremony, Albaugh said he thinks Boeing can build as many as 14 787s monthly, split evenly between North Charleston and Everett.

“We can build seven” per month in South Carolina alone, Albaugh told The Wall Street Journal. “And we can build seven on the primary line there in Everett.”

For more than a year, Boeing officials have suggested they would like to exceed the 10-per-month rate. In February 2011, Albaugh said Boeing wanted to be building as many as 15 per month but saw the supply chain as the limiting factor. He suggested then that Boeing would need a temporary 787 “surge” assembly line in Everett to make the higher rate.

Boeing’s 787 rollout in South Carolina took place about two and a half years after the company broke ground on the final assembly facility in North Charleston. On Friday, Boeing executives lauded their South Carolina workers’ ability to produce their first 787.

The 787 rolled out Friday is to be delivered to Air India in June. Jack Jones, general manager of Boeing Charleston, likened the feat to the Puget Sound-area workers who built the first 747 jumbo jet in Everett more than 40 years ago.

“I’d never take the name of The Incredibles,” he said, referring to the nickname for engineers and Machinists who developed and built the 747. “You guys are The Remarkables.”

Albaugh called the day a proud one for all of Boeing’s more than 170,000 workers around the world, including those in Washington state.

“I’d like to welcome the South Carolina team into a small and very elite fraternity” of people who build airplanes, Albaugh said.

Albaugh and Jones thanked politicians in South Carolina who helped entice the company to North Charleston in 2009.

“You sold us on South Carolina and we’re really glad that you did,” Albaugh said.

Gov. Nikki Haley said that in South Carolina “we build dreams. We build big, MacDaddy 787s.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., poked fun at the National Labor Relations Board in his speech. The NLRB filed a lawsuit in 2011 against Boeing, saying that in building a second 787 factory in South Carolina, the company had retaliated against the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers for labor strikes in the Puget Sound area.

“The NLRB couldn’t be here with us today,” Graham joked.

The NLRB, at the behest of the union, dropped the lawsuit against Boeing in December after the company and IAM made a deal that keeps 737 MAX production in Renton.

Boeing recently looked at additional property around the North Charleston facility. South Carolina state Rep. Chip Limehouse told people at a meeting of the county aviation authority last month that Boeing will build another line there. Boeing officials said the company is just keeping its options open.

For more about the first 787 built in South Carolina, go to www.newairplane.com/787/southcarolina.

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