Boeing fired the starting pistol on the much-anticipated launch of the 787-10 here yesterday, in the process collecting order commitments for 102 airplanes from five customers across Europe, Asia and North America. Air Lease, United Airlines, GE Capital Aviation Services, British Airways and Singapore Airlines form the group of launch customers.
Dow Jones Industrial Average
Boeing got another big boost for its widebody lineup here yesterday when Korean Air committed to another five 747-8Is and six 777-300ERs worth $3.6 billion at list prices. Also a customer for the Airbus A380, Korean has now signaled its intention to place a second order for the superjumbo’s competitor, production of which Boeing recently cut from two airplanes to 1.75 per month. Boeing holds firm orders for just 40 Intercontinentals and 65 freighters.
Boeing’s projection for more than 35,000 new airplanes over the next 20 years suggests a doubling of the size of today’s airliner fleet and a continuing trend in which airline traffic increases outpace economic growth.
Boeing has finished modifying the lithium-ion battery systems on all 50 of its 787 Dreamliners in the field and all the airplanes’ operators have re-launched service.
Recent remarks by Boeing CEO Jim McNerney about creating a so-called no-fly list of suppliers who fail to meet certain standards for quality, speed of delivery and cost has turned a spotlight on the company’s four supply chain management heads, all tasked with implementing the boss’s decree within their respective areas of responsibility and keeping vigil for “divide and conquer” tactics sometimes employed by program partners.
A switch from composite to titanium inner wall of the thrust reversers on the Boeing 737 Max has allowed designers to increase the fan diameter in the airplane’s CFM Leap-1B turbofans without a proportional increase in the size of the nacelle.
Boeing has left little doubt that it harbors bigger plans for its new plant in Charleston, South Carolina, where by the end of this year it expects to deliver three Dreamliners a month.
Boeing’s projection for more than 35,000 new airplanes over the next 20 years suggests a doubling of the size of today’s airliner fleet and a continuing trend in which increases in airline traffic outpace economic growth. The outlook appears to reflect a growing confidence in the fidelity of the positive market indicators the company cited in its 2012 forecast, prompting the company to increase its projection for total airplanes by more than 1,000 units and value by some 7 percent.
Automation in the aerospace industry remains fundamentally immature, and Boeing’s efforts in introducing robotics into 777 production might look like baby steps to the world’s automobile makers. But at Boeing’s widebody plant in Everett, Washington, those steps have translated into some considerable efficiency gains following the company’s transition some eight years ago to a moving, U-shaped assembly line and simultaneous implementation of so-called lean production processes.
With airliner order backlogs at Airbus and Boeing running to five or six years, the problem of keeping the complex global supply chain on track and in sequence is, some might say, a nice problem to have. But a problem it is, nonetheless, because while it suits the world’s dominant airframers to keep cash-yielding deliveries flowing quickly, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it suits suppliers equally well to ramp up output rates with the investment spikes this requires.