Boeing Debuts First 787 Made In S. Carolina

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Published: April 28, 2012

Boeing on Friday unveiled the first 787 Dreamliner made in its new South Carolina assembly plant, the site of a recent manufacturing glitch that threatened to disrupt the 787 production rate target.

The lightweight plane rolled off the Charleston assembly line into a sunny day, greeted by music, fireworks and the cheers of thousands of Boeing employees, local officials and news media.

Charleston is the second assembly line for the aircraft. The first is in Everett, Washington. Boeing has delivered 11 787s from the Washington factory.

The plane, which entered service last year, is about three years behind its development and production schedule, but demand is very high from airline customers.

“I feel great. I tell you what: Whenever you go to a new site, obviously there’s uncertainty. There’s risk,” Jim Albaugh, the chief executive of Boeing commercial planes, told reporters after the ceremony.

“We came here for the people. We came here because of South Carolina. We’re not disappointed at all. They’ve exceeded all of our expectations,” he said.

The 787 is the first commercial plane with an airframe made largely of carbon composites. Because of its lighter weight, the plane consumes 20 percent less fuel than other planes its size, savings that are prized by airline customers eager to reduce high fuel bills.

Boeing has taken more than 800 orders for the 787. The plane that emerged from the Charleston plant is bound for Air India.

Boeing, which aims to make 10 787s per month by the end of 2013, will produce three planes each month in South Carolina. The current 787 production rate is 3.5 per month, and some experts doubt Boeing can hit the 10-a-month target on time.

Earlier this year, workmanship in South Carolina came under scrutiny when Boeing reported signs of “delamination” on the rear fuselage of some 787s made at the Charleston plant. Delamination occurs when stress causes layered composite materials to separate.

Boeing has said the problem may affect up to 55 planes, but that the error will not be repeated because the company has retrained the workers who made the mistake.

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