1st S.C.-made Boeing Dreamliner to roll out April 27
Just months in the making but perhaps offering a glimpse decades into the future, South Carolina’s first Boeing 787 Dreamliner will roll out April 27.
A major milestone for the local plane-making operation, the rollout announced Wednesday represents the inaugural jet’s official debut, as well as a definitive step toward proving North Charleston’s ability to do what only two other places in the world do — finish putting together a wide-body commercial airplane.
It will be historic for everyone involved.
“This is a huge deal for all of our teammates here at Boeing South Carolina,” said Candy Eslinger, a company spokeswoman.
The rollout tells “the world that we did it,” according to Lt. Gov. Glenn McConnell.
“When I think back to the days when we were huddled around that conference table, Boeing was just a hope,” McConnell said last week, referring to the summer 2009 meetings in the downtown law offices of Nexsen Pruet that brought Boeing to the Palmetto State. “This is the fulfilment of the reality ... that South Carolina could compete internationally in the aerospace industry.”
Line Number 46
Boeing announced its decision to build a final assembly line here in October 2009 as part of its plan to fill hundreds of orders for the much- anticipated composite plane.
The final assembly building opened in June, and workers began putting the pieces together at the massive facility near Charleston International Airport in late summer. Around the same time, in late September, the first 787 was delivered out of Boeing’s main Dreamliner factory in Everett, Wash. — more than three years behind schedule — to much fanfare.
Seven more planes have since been delivered to All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines and more than 800 remain on order.
In December, the National Labor Relations Board litigation that cast a cloud over the North Charleston plant for much of the year was finally dropped.
Meanwhile the first S.C.- assembled plane, also known as Line Number 46, made its way along the U-shaped assembly line over the fall and winter, moving into its final pair of assembly positions in February. Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh previewed Wednesday’s announcement on March 14 when he told a New York investor conference that the inaugural Dreamliner would roll out in mid-April.
Boeing executives and employees, who now number more than 6,000 at the local plant, will be joined at the invitation-only rollout April 27 by South Carolina dignitaries and media hailing from far outside the Lowcountry.
The ceremony will include community partner performances, commemorative videos and executive presentations, according to a news release. The main event will be when the jet is pulled out of the northwest-facing back of the final assembly building and comes to rest before the gathered crowd, Eslinger said.
She wouldn’t reveal any more specifics, such as whether Boeing CEO Jim McNerney or a representative from the customer carrier Air India would be attending, saying that planning, as well as final work on the plane, is ongoing.
“We have to save a few secrets for the event,” Eslinger said.
Scott Hamilton, a longtime aerospace analyst based near Boeing’s nerve center in the Puget Sound area, has attended similar celebrations and predicted that the rollout in three weeks will rise to the occasion. This is the first time Boeing has assembled an airplane outside Washington state since World War II, he said.
Hamilton noted that the summer 2007 rollout of the first 787 was a “worldwide event” emceed by then-NBC news anchor Tom Brokaw.
“Given the historic nature of that plant and of that decision by Boeing to put an assembly line down there, I would anticipate that Boeing would make a real big extravaganza for Charleston and South Carolina,” he said.
Hamilton expects live music and “festive accoutrements.” When Boeing opened its interiors factory near Ladson in December, there were inflatable “thunder sticks” and students from a neighboring school danced to African drums.
“You should expect a really big show,” Hamilton said.
Reach Brendan Kearney at 937-5906 and follow him on Twitter at @kearney_ brendan.