Dreamliner production on track to meet 2014 goal

Boeing expects to deliver 110 787 Dreamliners in 2014, maintaining the pace it laid out earlier this year. The Chicago-based company assembles the 787 Dreamliner in North Charleston and Everett, Wash.

"Tremendous progress" on 787 production problems will keep Boeing on track to deliver 110 Dreamliners in 2014, a company official said Wednesday during the aerospace giant's first-quarter earnings report.

"There is still some work to do, but I don't see any effect on our deliveries," said Greg Smith, Boeing's chief financial officer.

The Chicago-based company is meeting its goal of building 10 Dreamliners a month between assembly operations in North Charleston and Everett, Wash., he said.

The aircraft maker pumped new manpower into the North Charleston plant earlier this year after a back flow of work led to production backups, mainly in the mid-fuselage assembly area. The company enticed workers with an additional bonus if they meet production goals by month's end.

"We are progressing well to our plan, but we won't be releasing any information until after April 30," Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said of the bonus offer.

The 787 production report came as part of an overall positive earnings quarter for Boeing.

The company reported first-quarter revenue rose 8 percent to $20.5 billion, mainly from higher sales of commercial aircraft.

Earnings per share beat Wall Street analysts' projections, rising 14 percent to $1.76 after excluding a benefit of 19 cents per share for the 2012 research and development tax credit recorded in the first quarter of 2013.

"Disciplined execution across our production and development programs produced strong first-quarter results," Boeing Chairman and CEO Jim McNerney said. "We measurably increased revenue, core operating earnings and cash flow, and expanded core operating margins."

The company's strong performance allowed the return of more than $3 billion to shareholders in the January through March period through share repurchase and an increased dividend, McNerney said.

"Our outlook for the full year remains positive on the strength of demand for our fuel-efficient new commercial airplanes, our solid productivity and profitably delivering the growth in our sizable backlog," he said.

The company booked 235 orders for new aircraft during the quarter. It has a backlog of more than 5,100 orders valued at $374 billion.

The aerospace giant's Commercial Airplanes division reported increased revenue of 19 percent to $12.7 billion on higher 787 Dreamliner and 737 deliveries. The company delivered 161 airplanes in the first quarter versus 137 last year during the same period.

Revenue for Boeing's Defense, Space and Security division declined 6 percent to $7.6 billion, mainly because of decreased demand for military aircraft in the first quarter.

Aviation analyst Saj Ahmad with StrategicAero Research called Boeing's earnings report "mightily impressive."

"At a time when 787 production is ramping up, margins were forecast to suffer, but have in fact been rising," Ahmad said. "You could surmise that Boeing does indeed have its arms around the 787 program costs so as deliveries ramp up, the program is making more money per airplane than not. This will help offset the production costs and the discounts offered to get the program kick-started."

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.