Boeing Breaks Ground Figuratively in China, Literally in Everett as 787 Rate Hits 3.5

 - March 12, 2012, 10:00 AM
An artist's rendering offers an impression of the scope of Boeing's plans for an "enhanced" Everett Delivery Center, scheduled for completion next year. (Image: Boeing)

A busy news cycle for Boeing climaxed last Tuesday with the company’s first so-called collaborative agreement with China’s Comac, under which the would-be rivals agreed to create an aviation energy conservation emissions reduction technology center in Beijing.

Funded by both companies, the Beijing center will support research projects to increase commercial aviation’s fuel efficiency and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, under the terms of a contract signed during a ceremony in Beijing by Comac chairman Jin Zhuanglong, Comac president He Dongfeng and Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Jim Albaugh. The manufacturers also agreed to hold annual “leadership engagements” and exchange commercial aviation market forecasts.

“Our new technology center shows that two companies in a competitive industry can partner to make progress on important challenges that cannot be solved by one company alone,” said Albaugh. “That is good for customers and passengers, and it’s the right thing to do.” China and the U.S. rank as the two most prolific emitters of greenhouse gases in the world.

The companies expect to collaborate with China-based universities and research institutions to expand knowledge of technologies—such as sustainable aviation biofuels and aviation connectivity infrastructure—that improve commercial aviation’s energy efficiency or reduce the industry’s carbon emissions.

The deal came a day after Boeing celebrated the start of construction on its new “enhanced” Everett Delivery Center (EDC) with a groundbreaking ceremony attended by Boeing employees, customers and local dignitaries.

The new facility will provide three times the office, conference and delivery operations space of the present delivery center. The design includes a delivery lounge and customer complex to accommodate the more than 150 customer representatives that work on-site in the EDC.

Boeing expects the new EDC to open early next year.

Separately, a Boeing spokesman confirmed on Monday that the company has increased the final assembly production rate on the 787 Dreamliner from 2.5 to 3.5 per month in Everett, Wash. The rate increase took effect on March 1.

“Elements of the supply chain are already moving toward subsequent rate breaks in the future,” said the spokesman.

Boeing expects the first airplane built at the 3.5-per-month rate will enter final body join by the middle of this month and roll out of the Everett factory in the second quarter.

The company still plans to reach a rate of 10 per month—seven at its Everett site and three at its plant in Charleston, S.C.—by the end of next year, notwithstanding delays associated with ongoing inspections triggered by signs of delamination of the aft fuselage section on certain airplanes.