So it is official. Boeing’s second 787 line will indeed be at Charleston, South Carolina – heralding the first time a Boeing commercial jetliner (not counting the inherited California-based production lines of the former McDonnell Douglas) will have been assembled outside of Washington State.
Some more detail has also come out following the Oct 28 announcement. According to BCA marketing vice president Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s goal is to have the second line up and running by July 2011, with first delivery in the first quarter of 2012. “Until Charleston’s second 787 line is underway, we’ll establish a transitional “surge” capability in Everett. This is to make sure we have a successful introduction of the 787-9, as well as ensure a smooth ramp-up to 10 deliveries per month between the two sites. When the Charleston line is up and running we’ll phase out the Everett surge capability. The process will take about 2 years,” says Tinseth.
The Boeing Charleston facility today - note Dreamlifter at far right. (Boeing)
“The second 787 assembly line will do a couple of things. It will expand our production capability and diversify our manufacturing base. We think ultimately this will reduce costs on the program, and that’s important for maintaining our competitiveness,” he adds.
So does this mean that having been ‘inspired’ by the Airbus airborne transport logistics system to bring the 787 together, Boeing is also following the Airbus double production line model to boost competitiveness?
Ironically when the Germans insisted on establishing a second production line for A320 family narrowbodies at Hamburg, the French argued it would cost up to $150 million in unnecessary costs. The Germans, denied it was all about national pride, and insisted it would bring about production efficiencies.
Just like Boeing’s decision to move outside Washington State, the Franco-German dispute over setting up a production line in Hamburg caused much ‘sturm und drang’. In the end a compromise was reached. A319s and A321s are built in Hamburg, while A320s (which Germany wanted to share with France), are built in Toulouse. Aircraft built in France are also flown to Hamburg for completion before final delivery from Toulouse, while all A319/A321 completions are performed in Germany.
Given the trials and tribulations over the program to-date Boeing’s timetable seems ambitious to say the least – but the site already produces and integrates big chunks of the 787 structure, and by 2011 Being’s production nightmare will surely be firmly behind it. Perhaps the real question is to do with the people who will build the 787-9. Where will they come from – Seattle?
And what about the lessons of the A320? Well France and Germany soon patched up their differences and production flexibility was indeed achieved. In later years an A320 production line was even established in China. Is that Boeing’s next move for the 787 one day?