Boeing South Carolina is adding a “new Dreamlifter Operations Center” to its North Charleston 787 Dreamliner factory complex, according to a notice filed with Charleston County this month.
The Dreamlifter is the modified Boeing 747 which carries sections of new 787s from the airframer’s suppliers around the world to North Charleston and Everett, Wash. and between those final assembly sites. There are four of the huge, white-and-blue freighter jets in service, and they can often be seen parked on the tarmac behind the factory buildings.
The operations center will be connected to the mid-fuselage assembly building nearest to Charleston International Airport’s terminals. Boeing expanded the northern edge of that building last year, adding a staging area for parts ready to be shipped out via Dreamlifter.
The “Dreamlifter Operations Center” project, which began Jan. 28 and was first reported by the Charleston Regional Business Journal Tuesday afternoon, is just the latest recent upgrade to the Boeing complex and comes as assembly work is beginning on the stretch model of the Dreamliner, the 787-9.
Last summer, construction began on expansions of Boeing’s aft- and mid-body factories as well as its campus paint shop. The bulk of that work involves tacking another 276,000 square feet onto the existing 467,000-square-foot plant where Boeing makes aft-fuselage sections for the 787.
The Dreamlifter project is also another indication that Boeing is proceeding with its growth and production plans despite the grounding of the entire 787 fleet on Jan. 16 after a pair of smoky battery incidents. Last week, the company pitched a fix to the Federal Aviation Administration in the hope that the technologically advanced but long-troubled jets can get back in the air this spring.
Meanwhile, Boeing is still making five airplanes a month, including a little more than one per month in North Charleston. Boeing plans to increase that rate to 10 per month, including more than three per month in North Charleston, by the end of the year.
Boeing South Carolina has rolled out eight 787s so far, four of which were delivered to Air India last year. The other four remain parked on the campus flight line.
Separately, Boeing is in negotiations with the Charleston County Aviation Authority to buy 320 acres along International Boulevard across from its campus for future development. Boeing also wants the right of first refusal on 488 acres straddling Michaux Parkway over to Dorchester Road and bordering Charleston Air Force Base and the option to buy 265 acres under its existing plant.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.