Boeing is looking at improving its Everett-built 767 jet, exec says

There is still a market for Boeing’s 767, the company’s Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith said Wednesday at Jefferies Global Industrials Conference.

In recent years, commercial sales had largely fallen off for the airplane, which was Boeing’s first twin-engine, twin-aisle jetliner. The largest remaining demand appeared to be for military aerial refueling tankers based on the 767. However last month, FedEx ordered 50 767 freighters. The package shipping and delivery company got its first 767 in 2013. It is the biggest order in the 767 program’s history and seems to have breathed new life into the line, which is ramping up production next year from 1.5 to 2 airplanes a month.

“It’s a very capable, proven, efficient product,” Smith said at the conference. “And so, I think we’ll continue to see a healthy demand for that product line.”

“But, at the same time, we’re still looking for opportunities to how to make the airplane even more efficient,” he said.

The company is looking to improve 767 production with “some of the best practices off the 737 and the 777 as an example,” he said.

Boeing’s major focus now is on delivering on its huge backlog of airplane orders and cutting costs to improve returns, he said.

The company has moved through 18 rate increases since 2009, and has another five scheduled, Smith said. “So, this is about delivering efficiently, profitably on that backlog, and continuing to execute…”

Demand remains high for single-aisle airplanes. Boeing plans to increase 737 output to 52 a month by 2018. Airbus is also ramping up at a similar rate.

Even so, there is pressure from customers to push production rates higher still, he said. “And the real question is taking that demand and really understanding how sustainable that is over a period of time, what kind of investment would be needed.”

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454;; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

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