Surge is on for Boeing’s 787 in Everett

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. looks to boost 787 production with help from a temporary surge line that’s recently up and running in Everett.

“This is a final assembly line designed to help the program steadily increase its production rate from the current 3.5 airplanes per month to 10 per month by the end of 2013,” Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s vice president of marketing for airplanes, wrote on his blog Monday.

Boeing workers loaded the first 787 into position on the surge line Aug. 24, Scott Lefeber, a Boeing spokesman, wrote in an email Monday. The temporary line doesn’t function exactly the same as the primary 787 line in Everett, Tinseth noted. Airplanes on the temporary line will be in slant positions rather than in a position where the 787’s nose faces the factory door the entire time it moves down the factory floor.

The surge line has been planned since 2009 when Boeing announced it would put a second 787 assembly line in North Charleston, S.C. Company executives said that Boeing would need a temporary surge line in Everett while the second line in South Carolina gets up to speed. Initially, Boeing officials said the Everett site would produce seven 787s monthly and the North Charleston site would build three monthly.

When Boeing rolled out the first 787 assembled in South Carolina in April, Jim Albaugh, then president of commercial airplanes, suggested that South Carolina also eventually could produce as many as seven Dreamliner aircraft monthly. Albaugh previously had hinted the surge line in Everett could become permanent.

At the moment, though, Boeing’s main objective is hitting its announced plan of assembling 10 787s monthly by the end of next year. The Chicago-based company has unfilled orders for more than 800 Dreamliner jets. The company needs to deliver 1,100 787s for the program to be profitable.

As of last Friday, Boeing had delivered a total of 17 787s since receiving Federal Aviation Administration certification last August. The company is expected to deliver Air India’s first 787 this week in South Carolina. That delivery has been held up by an Air India pilots’ strike over which pilots would get to fly the Dreamliner and talks over compensation for Boeing’s previous 787 delays.

Beside helping Boeing meet its production goal, the surge line also gives Boeing breathing room on introducing the next version of the Dreamliner, the 787-9, into the production system. The 787-9 seats about 40 more passengers and flies 300 nautical miles farther than the existing Dreamliner the 787-8.

The jet maker’s supplier partners will begin building major sections of the 787-9 this year with final assembly to begin in 2013, Boeing’s Lefeber wrote. Boeing plans to deliver the first 787-9 in 2014.

Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3453; mdunlop@heraldnet.com.

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