Boeing sees little chance that it will have to cut production of the 777 during the transition to the 777X, notwithstanding recent conjecture from analysts that a so-called sales “drought” since the launch of the program during last year’s Dubai Air Show could portend a period of market weakness–and a possibility that it won’t find enough orders to maintain its 8.3-per-month rate into 2020.
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Lessons learned from early missteps associated with the Boeing Dreamliner’s production system have helped cut unit costs on the 787-8 by some 15 percent over the past year and generate a 10-percent flow reduction since December, according to Boeing 787 vice president and deputy general manager Kim Pastega. Now building eight airplanes a month at is main plant in Everett, Washington, and two at its new factory in Charleston, South Carolina, Boeing has also seen a unit cost improvement of 30 percent in the recently certified 787-9 over the first six airplanes built.
Analysts expect established trends in predicted long-term jetliner requirements to continue, with little change to the market breakdown by aircraft size, according to the latest Boeing 20-year forecast statistics, unveiled in London on July 10.
Containing risk represents one of the hallmarks of Boeing’s proven approach to the 777 program, and its agreements last month with five key Japanese partners to perform major work on the 777X didn’t deviate far from historic form. But while the consortium of Japanese companies known as Japan Aircraft Industries won responsibility for essentially the same portion of the 777X airframe–21 percent–that it carries on the current version of the 777, Boeing didn’t necessarily exhibit a light touch in its negotiations with the group of long-time structural suppliers.
Resistant to grounding their Boeing 787-8s for a even a short time, several operators have indefinitely deferred addressing fixes to some of the airplanes’ last remaining glitches, presenting the manufacturer with an “issue” as it marches toward its target dispatch reliability rate of 99.6 percent.
Australian officials have once again amended the search area for the Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 missing since March 8. “Specialists have analyzed satellite communications information–information that was never initially intended to have the capability to track an aircraft–and performed extremely complex calculations,” said Deputy Prime Minister Warren Truss. “The new priority area is still focused on the seventh arc, where the aircraft last communicated with a satellite. We are now shifting our attention to an area farther south along the arc based on these calculations.”
The production system that promises to support a reduction in final assembly times for the Boeing 737 from 10 to nine days this year should become still more efficient with the introduction of a new automated panel assembly line (PAL) by early 2015. Built by Mukilteo, Washington-based Electroimpact, the PAL fastens stringers to wing skin panels at twice the rate Boeing now can manage using the current process at the 737 plant in Renton, Washington. Electroimpact designed the machine to “normalize” to the panel with an array of lasers that “see” the surface without touching it, allowing it to follow the panel curvature or contour. The process improves accuracy, consistency and “repeatability,” according to Boeing.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) each granted the Boeing 787-9 an amended type certificate, paving the way for Air New Zealand to take delivery of the first production example early this summer, Boeing announced on Monday morning. The FAA also has granted Boeing an amended production certificate, validating that the Boeing production system can produce 787-9s that conform to the design. EASA accepts FAA oversight of Boeing production certificates, just as the FAA accepts EASA oversight of European manufacturers’ production certificates.
Pacific Aerospace Resources & Technologies (Part) recently completed a major maintenance project in support of a South American presidential 737-500. The aircraft left Part’s facility earlier this week after a C-check and full interior restoration, new paint and satcom and IFE upgrade. Part, an ARC Aerospace Industries company and Boeing Gold Care Provider, is located in Victorville, Calif., and provides MRO services for Airbus, Boeing, Embraer and others from its 300,000-sq-ft facility.
Completion specialist L-3 Platform Integration of Waco, Texas reported at EBACE 2014 “significant progress” on completing two 747-8 VVIP aircraft for undisclosed customers. One of the aircraft is slated to become the first ever 747-8 VVIP completion.