Boeing tops yearly Dreamliner delivery goal

This 787 Dreamliner, built at Boeing Co.'s North Charleston plant, was delivered in 2013 to Hainan Airlines in Beijing, China. Boeing on Tuesday announced 114 Dreamliner deliveries during 2014, beating its delivery prediction.

Boeing Co. beat its goal for Dreamliner deliveries in 2014, bringing 114 of the 787 twin-aisle aircraft to customers, and set a record for overall commercial plane sales, the company announced Tuesday.

Boeing used a late-year surge to beat its predicted delivery total by four Dreamliners. The planes are made at Boeing's factories in North Charleston and in Everett, Wash.

In addition, Boeing booked 1,432 net orders for commercial planes last year - including 41 Dreamliners - worth $237.7 billion at list prices. That breaks the company's previous sales record set in 2007.

"I'm extremely proud of the entire Boeing team, and all of the hard work that went into delivering and selling a record number of commercial airplanes this past year," Ray Conner, president and chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement.

Heading into December, the company had delivered 96 Dreamliners. Its 18 deliveries last month represented the company's highest single-month delivery total in 787 history.

Although the company does not release delivery totals for its individual factories, blogger Uresh Sheth - a Wall Street banker and self-proclaimed "AvGeek" who tracks the production of 787s - reported the North Charleston campus built 34 of the Dreamliners that were delivered in 2014, with the rest produced in Washington.

Boeing said production at its North Charleston plant set a record in 2014.

"North Charleston has reached around three airplanes per month and there's no reason why it can't reach four or more per month this year," said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.

"The (North Charleston) site now has the same experience of dual-model 787 production (as Everett)," Ahmad said. "The key is to harness and introduce more airplanes on its production lines with a view to raising output. Just a few years ago, North Charleston didn't even produce one 787 a month. Now they are closing in on four a month."

Sheth said "traveled work" - assembly work that's supposed to be done at supplier factories but instead is finished by Boeing - continues to affect Dreamliner production, and deferred production costs for the 787 have increased to more than $25 billion.

Despite the problems, Sheth said Boeing "has set itself up for 2015 rather well. If they are able to overcome these issues then we should see a high number of 787 deliveries in 2015 compared to 2014."

Ahmad said he expects costs will start to fall on a per-unit basis with each new Dreamliner that is built.

"Boeing has demonstrated that it has its arms around the program," he said, adding that the company has managed challenges such as introducing the 787-9 to North Charleston's production flow.

Jack Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, said last month that the North Charleston plant has "stabilized."

"We're in a good place right now," Jones told The Post and Courier. "Now, what we need to do is continue to drive productivity and learning curves to make this thing even more efficient than what we've been going through the last couple of years."

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren.