Boeing may be accelerating its schedule for transferring 787 Dreamliner production from Everett, Wash., to North Charleston, S.C., according to an internal memo to employees reported by The Seattle Times. The memo indicated that the program would be consolidated in South Carolina by March 2021, in contrast to Boeing’s official announcement of the move in October, which indicated the transfer would be done by mid-2021.
The 787 Dreamliner is a twin-engine, long-range wide-body jet with carrying capacity for 210 to 330 passengers. The 787 series has been in service since 2011, and now includes three variants — though the largest of these, the 787-10, is assembled exclusively at North Charleston.
Consolidating the 787 program is a cost-saving effort for Boeing, as the South Carolina operation has lower labor costs, but it also acknowledges the fact that aircraft production rates will be cut significantly as commercial demand declines following the Covid-19 pandemic.
In July Boeing announced that 2021 would see it cut the 787 production rate from 10 to six jets per month, but in December the OEM reduced that projection further – to five jets per month by mid-2021. During 2019, Boeing produced 14 jets/month, but the bullish outlook for new aircraft demand that prevailed then has been overturned by the pandemic and its affect on airline’s passenger volumes.
At the same time, Boeing is said to be coping with a rising volume of undelivered 787s, with deliveries of new jets slowed by two factors: 1) airlines cancelling or delaying delivery, and 2) Boeing’s commitment to conduct a series of special inspections of new aircraft following reports of structural defects in some of 787s.
Those inspections will continue at Everett even after assembly has been relocated to North Charleston, according to Boeing. The space made available by the end of assembly in Everett will be used for inspection and repair efforts.