Boeing South Carolina won’t hit 787 production goal this year

Boeing Co.’s North Charleston final assembly factory will not achieve a production rate of three 787s per month this year as previously forecast, a plant executive said Friday.

Willy Geary, the site’s director of operations, said the local final assembly operation is still only producing about 1.5 Dreamliners per month and won’t be able to double that pace over the next six months.

“It’ll take a little bit to get fully to three here,” Geary said. Pressed for a new timeline, he said “by first quarter roughly.”

Geary, who recently ascended to second in command at Boeing South Carolina (just below general manager Jack Jones), emphasized the overall program goal of producing ten 787s per month by the end of the year is still on track, thanks to the local aft-and mid-fuselage factories and in the other 787 final assembly facilities in Everett, Wash.

Speaking after the morning ceremony to mark the first 787 delivery to China’s Hainan Airlines, Geary also provided other updates on Boeing’s expanding operations in North Charleston.

While the local fuselage factories have been making sections for the 787-9 stretch Dreamliner for months now, the final assembly facility is still only making the 787-8 base model. The first 787-9 will start coming together in that facility “around the fall of 2014,” Geary confirmed.

As for Boeing’s spring request for proposals for a potential 737 MAX inlet engineering and assembly facility nearby, Geary said the company is reviewing the responses but would not say when a decision will be made.

“Soon,” he said. “Let’s just put it that way.”

Boeing is already leasing space just down U.S. Interstate 526 from its main factory complex for the beginning stages of what will become one of the company’s main information technology hubs. Geary said not much more than management are there now, but those leaders are “in the middle of hiring.”

“They’ll ramp up,” he said. “They’re in the heavy throes of that right now.”

Finally, there’s been increasing speculation about whether the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers will garner the support necessary to stage a National Labor Relations Board vote later this year as the local union representative has predicted.

Geary said Boeing management tracks union activity but can’t speak to “what their game plan is.”

“I know what our game plan is, which is to take care of our people so they wouldn’t have a desire to look towards a union,” he said. “So, the union’s free to do what they want. They’re always going to be after us. We just got to be vigilant about taking care of our people.”

Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_brendan.

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