By Dominic Gates The Seattle Times
In a decision that’s been expected for some time, Boeing confirmed Wednesday that the largest version of its 787 Dreamliner — the 787-10 — will be assembled exclusively in North Charleston, South Carolina.
The 787-10 — the first of which is to be built in 2017 — will be 18 feet longer than the 787-9. The midbody section is 10 feet longer than on the -9.
For all the 787 models, the long midsection of the airplane is assembled in North Charleston from parts arriving from Italy and Japan. Wiring, hydraulic tubing, ducting and insulation systems are also installed there.
For the original 787-8 model and for the larger 787-9 model, most of the midsections are then flown to Everett in a giant, customized transport airplane called the Dreamlifter.
At the current production rate of 10 Dreamliners per month, seven are assembled this way in Everett and three are assembled at a second final assembly plant at the North Charleston manufacturing complex, adjacent to where the midbody section is built.
“We looked at all our options and found the most efficient and effective solution is to build the 787-10 at Boeing South Carolina,” said Larry Loftis, vice president and general manager of the 787 program.
“This will allow us to balance 787 production across the North Charleston and Everett sites as we increase production rates,” Loftis said.
Boeing said the Everett plant will continue to assemble seven Dreamliners per month, while the North Charleston final assembly facility will gradually increase from three 787s per month today to five per month in 2016 and seven per month by the end of the decade.
The 787-10 is a high-capacity, shorter-range version of the Dreamliner.
It will carry 300 to 330 passengers compared to 280 on the 787-9 but will have almost 1,500 miles less range.
Launched a year ago at the Paris Air Show, the 787-10 has won just 132 orders out of more than 1,000 firm orders for all models of the Dreamliner.
The decision to build this model exclusively in North Charleston is a boost to that site, which has struggled to come up to speed. However, Boeing insists that Everett will continue to have plenty of work and indeed will expand to build the new 777X.
“We’re happy with our growth and success in South Carolina, and the continued success at both sites gives us confidence in our plan going forward.”