Boeing CEO: First Dreamliner to roll from Charleston in mid-April
Boeing South Carolina will roll out its first Dreamliner in mid-April, and the historic plane will fly away in June, a top company executive said Wednesday morning.
The timeline offered by Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh, speaking at the J.P. Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense Conference in New York, is the most exact yet. He said the first delivery from the North Charleston plant will be "huge," a sentiment shared by many in the Lowcountry.
Consistent with statements over the past several months, Albaugh praised the progress of the local Boeing operation and hinted at its potential to ramp up faster than originally anticipated. But he noted the growing pains, as well.
"The pinch points we have are in Charleston," Albaugh said.
He acknowledged the recent "shimming" problem incorrect placement of spacers toward the back of perhaps 50 fuselages that originated at the aft-body building on the North Charleston campus and that prevented any Dreamliner deliveries since mid-January.
"It's something we can fix and it's something we can understand," Albaugh said, promising the issue would not derail Boeing from delivering 10 Dreamliners a month by the end of next year.
As part of a broader ramp-up across several plane programs, the Chicago-based airframer this month increased its production of 787s from 2.5 per month to 3.5 per month. Albaugh said the rate would increase to 5 per month in the fall.
Asked if Boeing could eventually deliver more than 10 per month, Albaugh said he'd love to go into the teens per month because there's the market for it. The Dreamliner order backlog stands at more than 860 planes.
But it will take time to get the final assembly lines and the supply chain up to speed.
"We have the capacity between Charleston and Everett to do 17," he said. "The market will support going higher than 10, but let's get to 10 first."
Over the course of his 40-minute appearance, Albaugh also discussed topics ranging from competition with China to Boeing's other airplanes. But the Dreamliner its new program leadership, plans for an extended model and the delivery delays came up over and over again.
Albaugh denied Boeing had agreed to pay Air India $500 million to compensate for the years of delays in delivering its order of 27 Dreamliners. Air India is slated to receive the first S.C.-made Dreamliner.
"I think if we'd settled for 500 million, somebody would've told me," Albaugh said. "We're not writing anybody a check for 500 million dollars."
To hear a recording of Albaugh's comments, click here.