Boeing’s decorated 787 Dreamliner was on display at a celebration for the Boeing Employees Community Fund on Sept. 19 at the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo. (Janice Podsada / Herald file)

Boeing’s decorated 787 Dreamliner was on display at a celebration for the Boeing Employees Community Fund on Sept. 19 at the Boeing Future of Flight Aviation Center in Mukilteo. (Janice Podsada / Herald file)

787 production backlog dwindles as Aeroflot cancels order

At 14 jets per month, the Everett line now has only 20 months worth of Dreamliner orders remaining.

By Dominic Gates / The Seattle Times

Boeing’s backlog of 787 Dreamliner orders was cut by 14 in September when Russian airline Aeroflot canceled its 2007 order for 22 Dreamliners — 18 of the smaller 787-8s and four 787-9s — while the company booked one new order from Air New Zealand for eight of the largest model, the 787-10.

The lost order is a cause for concern in Everett because the 787 backlog is dwindling fast as the company aims to roll out the planes at a rate of 14 jets per month.

Boeing has been seeking new 787 orders to ensure it can maintain that high production rate, which is now critically important with cash flow from the 737 Max blocked by that jet’s grounding.

Boeing now has a total order book of 1,450 Dreamliners through September, with 894 of those delivered. The 556 still to be delivered are split roughly 50:50 between the two production sites in Everett and in North Charleston, South Carolina, leaving Everett with just 20 months of work at the 14-jets-per-month rate.

Clearly, Boeing will have to win significant 787 orders in the next year to avoid a production rate cut in 2021 or 2022.

The lost Aeroflot order was worth $5.5 billion at list prices, although according to data from market valuation firm Avitas, allowing for standard discounts, the real value is about $2.7 billion.

The list price of the new Air New Zealand order is $2.6 billion, though the Avitas estimate for the real value is about $1.2 billion.

Boeing reported total deliveries of 63 commercial jets in the past quarter.

From the Everett widebody assembly plant, that included a single 747-8 jumbo jet, a dozen 777s and ten 767s, as well as 35 Dreamliners split between Everett and North Charleston.

Due to Hurricane Dorian pushing out some September deliveries in South Carolina, the Dreamliner delivery rate came down to just less than 12 jets per month from the 14 per month the previous quarter.

Notably, the 747, 10 of the 777s and six of the 767s were freighters, not passenger jets. The other four 767s were refueling KC-46 tankers for the U.S. Air Force.

Boeing’s Renton commercial jet deliveries are frozen by the grounding of the 737 Max, although Boeing did deliver from there five 737-based P-8 military planes used for maritime surveillance and submarine hunting.

Boeing also won its first Max order since April, for a VIP private jet. However, it also saw two cancellations of VIP 737s in September, so that new order may just be a re-sell of the canceled plane at a lower rate. Or it might be an upgrade of a 737NG VIP order, rather than a new one.

European jetmaker Airbus in the past quarter delivered 182 commercial jets, including 128 single-aisle A320s, which compete with Boeing’s 737.

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