Boeing Co. has delayed site selection for production of the 787-10 passenger jet until later in the year, according to Boeing South Carolina's top executive.
In December, Jack Jones said he expected the decision on where the newest and longest member of the 787 family will be built to be made by the first quarter of this year. Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, said last week that won't happen, adding that he still expects the decision to be made this year.
"They are being very meth-odical," he said. "The company will do it when the time is right, but it will be this year."
He declined to be more specific on the time line.
Boeing launched the 787-10 program last June with 102 orders and commitments from five customers. It hopes to deliver the first new long-range jets in 2018.
Aviation analysts widely believe the Chicago-based aerospace giant will select the nonunionized assembly operation in North Charleston as the jet's production site. It now has the available land, and the company already assembles the smaller 787-8 and builds parts for the bigger 787-9 in North Charleston, delivering locally completed planes to international airline clients and sending parts to Everett, Wash., where the 787-9 is assembled.
Starting this fall, the 787-9 will be fully assembled in North Charleston. That's still on track, Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said.
One factor possibly delaying the announcement is the production problems in North Charleston, where hundreds of temporary contract workers have been brought in to help work out the glitches in the aft-body, mid-body and final assembly operations and catch up on a backlog of work for the 787-8 and 787-9.
To entice employees to meet production goals of three 787-8 Dreamliners a month by mid-summer in North Charleston, the company will give factory-floor workers a bonus of 8 percent of their base pay for the previous 12 months if the goals are met by April 30. If workers fall short and meet the goals by June 30, the bonus is trimmed by 40 percent. After June 30, the offer is off the table.
The pressure is on since the company is trying to build 10 planes a month between North Charleston and Everett, Wash., the hub of the company's plane-building operations. It plans to speed up production even more in two years to 12 Dreamliners a month and by 2019 to 14 a month to catch up on a backlog of nearly 1,000 orders by airlines worldwide.
Jones also reiterated last week during a Charleston Metro Chamber of Commerce event that the company has no "immediate" plans for the 468 additional acres it leased from the state in December beside its 264-acre campus at Charleston International Airport.
Boeing is a company that thinks years ahead in plane production, design and cost, so it's a safe bet there's a long-range plan in the works.
And as chamber Chairman Chris Fraser put it during the chamber event: "They are not going to plant corn out there."
Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.