Boeing is telling its 787 supply chain “business as usual” even as the aircraft—its highest-profile development effort—is in its third week of being grounded and deliveries have been suspended.
Suppliers are working on a seven-per-month build rate that Boeing's main 787 sites in Everett, Wash., and North Charleston, S.C., will not reach until mid-year. Regardless of the delivery stoppage that followed two battery-fire incidents on operational 787s last month, 60 787s are set to go to customers this year, CEO James McNerney said last week during a 2012 earnings call. Deliveries of all models are projected at 635-645.
The 787 delivery goal represents a modest increase over last year's 46, which included 23 in December alone. Boeing has 46 787s in process—either in build, undergoing post-production rework or awaiting delivery. It presented 32 that required rework to airlines last year and expects to hand over another nine this year.
The current emphasis on regaining the 787's flight status is not draining talent from other programs, McNerney insists. “This is a highly compartmentalized issue” and the company's “deep expertise”—and that of its suppliers—can tackle it without impacting development of the 737 MAX and the 787-9. Two potential additions, the 787-10 and 777X, are also proceeding without a hitch, he says.
Furthermore, Boeing has “enough experts available to keep looking at this issue” regardless of whether its unionized engineers reject the company's four-year contract offer and strike, he says. They vote in about two weeks.
MAX development is pacing toward its final configuration design milestone at mid-year. Meanwhile, the 787-9 is on track to enter final assembly on schedule mid-year.
The 787-10 has been “conditionally offered” to airlines and “the response has been very strong,” McNerney says. But he did not say when it might be officially launched. Nor did he address a launch date for Boeing's most complex pending development, the 777X, a competitor to the Airbus A350-1000.