Boeing rolled out the first 787 Dreamliner assembled at its new plant in North Charleston, S.C., on April 27. Addressing a crowd of some 7,000 employees and others gathered under the sun in front of the massive final assembly building, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh and Boeing South Carolina general manager Jack Jones framed the occasion in historic terms: It marked the first time Boeing built an airliner outside the Puget Sound region of Washington state.
Plans call for delivery of airplane 46, powered by General Electric GEnx-1B engines, to Air India by the end of the second quarter, after system checks and first flight in North Charleston and painting by Leading Edge Aviation Services in Amarillo, Texas. Boeing’s delivery schedules show the next three 787s assembled in South Carolina also going to Air India, rounding out the four aircraft Boeing expects to complete there this year. The company plans to accelerate final assembly to 3.5 aircraft per month by late next year or early 2014.
Boeing erected the final assembly facility, its largest single-span building, after acquiring Vought-Alenia Global Aeronautica, the troubled joint venture responsible for integrating 787 center fuselage sections at the site adjacent to Charleston International Airport. The company announced its selection of the site for a new 787 final assembly line in October 2009 and broke ground that November. It finished building the 642,720-sq-ft assembly facility last June. “We went from dirt to the airplane that’s going to roll out today in two-and-a-half years,” Jones told reporters. “That’s phenomenal, and there is a lot of pride in the fact that we were able to do that…We’re done with the building; it’s all about production.”
Soon after Boeing officially opened the plant last June, court deliberations began in a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) lawsuit that alleged Boeing’s decision to build the 787 in South Carolina amounted to retaliation against its unionized work force in Washington state. The NLRB dropped the lawsuit in December after Boeing and its machinists agreed on a new four-year contract, but the controversy didn’t go unmentioned during the roll-out ceremony. “The NLRB could not be with us here today,” quipped U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). “[That] was a good decision on their part—the only one I can remember lately.”