Thursday, December 22, 2016

Boeing hands over 500th Dreamliner in record time

Boeing Co. is closing out its aircraft production year with another milestone for its 787 program.

The company said Thursday that it delivered its 500th Dreamliner twin-aisle jet on Tuesday at a ceremony in Seattle. The customer was Avianca S.A., a South American airline based in Colombia.

“Achieving 500 deliveries – the fastest to 500 for twin aisles – is a great accomplishment, made possible by the hard work and dedication of our employees and global suppliers,” said Mark Jenks, vice president and general manager of the 787 program.

Boeing makes the lightweight jets at plants in North Charleston and Everett, Wash. A slowdown in sales this year has the company rethinking a planned increase in the production rate - to 14 planes a month from 12 - by the end of the decade.

Uresh Sheth, the author of the "All Things 787" website, predicted earlier this week that the delivery of No. 500 was imminent. Avianca officials flew off in their new 787-8, the original and smallest model, on Wednesday, said Boeing spokeswoman Elizabeth Silva.

Through November, the planemaker had turned over a total of 489 commercial aircraft to customers, mostly 737s. Boeing does not break out numbers by production site, but Sheth reported that the North Charleston plant delivered 69 Dreamliners this year, including a "Dash 8" to Air Europa on Monday.

The Avianca handover was expected be the last of the year, as Boeing Commercial Airplanes is scheduled to go on its annual holiday break beginning Friday.

The 787 entered service about five years ago. The fleet is now operated by 48 carriers worldwide that have flown a combined 696,000 commercial flights over 1.7 billion miles with 133 million passengers on 530 routes, Boeing said.

The North Charleston plant marked a delivery milestone of its own earlier this year when American Airlines flew away in the 100th South Carolina-made Dreamliner. This month, Boeing celebrated the opening of a mammoth two-bay paint hangar, allowing all phases of 787 production to be completed at the local campus. 

Work also started recently on the newest and biggest jet in the Dreamliner stable. The new 787-10 will be made only at the North Charleston final assembly plant off International Boulevard. Sheth projected Thursday that the inaugural Dash 10 will be ready for its first flight around mid-March.


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