United Airlines 787-10 (copy)

Boeing Co. hopes to sell more 787-10 Dreamliners, like this one built in North Charleston for United Airlines, to help boost the wide-body jet's profit margins. Provided/United Airlines

The 787 Dreamliner has been turning a profit for a couple years now, but Boeing Co. thinks there's plenty of cash left to squeeze out of the popular wide-body commercial plane built in North Charleston. 

The program had run up $28 billion in deferred production costs before each delivery started making money in 2016. Ken Herbert, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, says each 787 sold now makes roughly $16 million.

The program will generate more profit, he told CNBC, when the production ramp-up to 14 planes per month — split between assembly sites in South Carolina and Everett, Wash. — begins this spring.

Boeing plans to erase the deferred costs by the time the 1,400th Dreamliner is delivered. Through last year, Boeing had handed over 781 of the twin-aisle jets to customers — just seven shy of the plane's numerical designator.

The week ahead (copy)

Greg Smith, Boeing Co.'s chief financial officer.

During a Cowen Inc. investors conference last week, Boeing finance chief Greg Smith said "there is still a lot of improvement ahead of us" when it comes to Dreamliner profit margins.

He praised workers in North Charleston and Everett for increased productivity, the successful integration of the 787-10 into the assembly process and smooth strides toward the 14-per-month rate, But Smith warned that further cost cuts are expected from suppliers.

Also, commonality between the Dash 10 and its older, smaller 787-9 sibling means that as more of those planes are built — and fewer 787-8s are made — costs decrease. The 787-10, the largest and most expensive Dreamliner variant, is built exclusively in North Charleston.

"Getting the mix right, getting more of the 'Dash 10s' and more of the 'Dash 9s' ... will add to the cash flow," Smith said.

Smith's talk at Cowen's "Aerospace and Defense Conference" followed Boeing's announcement last month of a record financial performance in 2018, cracking the $100 billion revenue threshold for the first time.

Carnival Ecstasy (copy) (copy)

The State Ports Authority wants to build a new terminal for passengers of cruise ships such as the Carnival Ecstasy. File/Staff

Court call

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A case that will help decide whether the State Ports Authority builds a new terminal for cruise ships near downtown Charleston will be considered next month by the S.C. Supreme Court.

Several area environmental and historic preservation groups are suing to stop the authority's plans for a $43 million terminal for cruise passengers at the north end of Union Pier. They say the proposed terminal will create noise, congestion and pollution.

The authority says the project is needed to replace the outdated facility now in use and that it would improve traffic flows near the city's Historic District.

The case centers around a permit the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control issued in 2012 allowing the SPA to place five additional clusters of support pilings beneath an existing warehouse where the terminal would be located. Two lower courts have ruled that groups opposing the terminal don't have a legal right to stop the project.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case at 10:30 a.m. on March 27 in Columbia.

A separate federal lawsuit that was sent back to the Army Corps of Engineers for further review is still pending.

Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_