Albaugh says Boeing is pleased with 787, 777X progress

A recent switch in managers already is paying off for the Boeing Co.’s 787 and 777 programs, a company executive said Wednesday.

In late February, Boeing had Larry Loftis and Scott Fancher trade jobs. Loftis became general manager of the 787 program and Fancher is now the chief of the 777 program.

After only a few weeks, “I’m very pleased with what Larry has done with 787 production,” Jim Albaugh, president of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said during an investors conference sponsored by JP Morgan.

Albaugh’s comments were webcast from New York.

He is similarly pleased with Fancher’s early progress on the 777, which includes helping shape the next version of that jet, the 777X. Albaugh assigned Fancher to the 777 because Fancher has “cut his teeth” on development programs. Already, Fancher has helped determine what the non-recurring expenses would be for an updated 777, Albaugh said.

Earlier this month, Albaugh said the company likely will ask the board of directors later this year for approval to offer the 777X to customers.

The refreshed 777, which would feature a composite wing and new engines, will be “significantly more efficient” than the existing 777, Albaugh said Wednesday. He noted that it is already a very popular airplane, having just had its most successful sales year.

Albaugh also said he is pleased with progress on the 787. He predicted Boeing will meet 2012 delivery goals and intends to be assembling 10 per month by the end of 2013.

Loftis “understands the Boeing production system probably better than anyone,” Albaugh said.

The 787 production system involves two lines in Everett — the original line and a “surge” line for additional capacity — as well as a new line in North Charleston, S.C. The first 787 to be built in South Carolina is to roll out in April and be delivered this summer, Albaugh said.

Altogether, Boeing will have the capacity to build 17 787s monthly but doesn’t know if suppliers could support that rate of production, Albaugh said. He believes there’s market demand enough to support production at that rate.

In the near future, Boeing will begin work in Everett on the 66th 787. That will be the first Dreamliner to go through production without post-assembly engineering changes, Albaugh said.

But Boeing still has dozens of 787s, built early on, that still need work to bring them up to delivery standard.

“We’ve got a lot of airplanes parked out there at Paine Field in Everett,” Albaugh said. The last of those 787s requiring change work “will fly away in early 2014.”

Across Boeing’s commercial airplane business, Albaugh expects the company to book more orders for aircraft this year than it will build. If the company formalized all the tentative orders it has for a re-engined 737 MAX alone, the company would book 1,000 orders this year.

Albaugh said Boeing expects more orders for other aircraft, including the updated 747-8.

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