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Boeing South Carolina surpasses delivery goals for 2014, execs say

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By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Dec. 16, 2014

Boeing South Carolina has delivered more 787 Dreamliners in 2014 than planned, though Boeing executives declined to say by how much.

Boeing does not publicly break down how many planes each location delivers, but Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner said Boeing is on track to deliver 110 Dreamliners by the end of the year between its Lowcountry and Puget Sound operations.

As of the end of the third quarter, Boeing had delivered 79 Dreamliners in 2014. Between Everett, Wash., and North Charleston, Boeing currently produces 10 airplanes per month, three of them locally.

Earlier this year, Boeing said it plans to increase rates to produce 12 Dreamliners per month by 2016 and 14 per month by 2020, with Boeing South Carolina growing to five per month by 2016 and seven per month by 2020.

Following a news conference in North Charleston today announcing a donation of more than $5 million to MUSC and the Lowcountry Food Bank, Conner said that Boeing South Carolina will continue to “exceed our delivery goals” and that the local facility is “right on schedule with (787)-9 integration.”

Boeing South Carolina, which produces parts for Dreamliners, recently added 787-9 final assembly to its 787-8 final assembly operations. Conner said he expects Boeing South Carolina to deliver a 787-9 in early 2015.

Jack Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina, said that any introduction of a new airplane causes some disruption but that Boeing South Carolina planned ahead and added extra time to the schedule to prevent traveled work.

Earlier this year, Boeing South Carolina had production delays and traveled work for its Dreamliners, meaning parts were moved to final assembly before they were finished in an effort to maintain delivery deadlines, according to Boeing officials.

“The whole South Carolina team has done a fabulous job of recovering from some of the issues they experienced at the beginning of the year ... getting back on track and exceeding where we thought they would be,” Conner said.

As Boeing South Carolina grows, Conner and Jones agreed there will be more opportunities to grow the local supplier base by either bringing out-of-state suppliers to South Carolina — as with Pacific Rim Aerospace and Senior Aerospace AMT, both of Washington — or by working with South Carolina-based suppliers.

“As we grow, naturally the supply base will grow around that. ... I believe that will come along with time,” Conner said. “The whole aerospace community here in South Carolina is going to expand as we move forward.”

Jones said no plans exist for the 468 acres that Boeing South Carolina acquired in December 2013 other than what has been previously announced. Boeing plans to use part of the land for additional parking for its 7,500-plus workers and for a paint facility, which will enable the Dreamliners to be painted locally rather than having to be flown to Texas.

“There is no insidious plot to bring a package of work here that nobody knows about,” Jones said. “It truly is just there for whenever Ray (Conner) or corporate decide they want to do something here; it is there to be used any way we want.”

Conner said he was involved with the decision to open a second 787 final assembly and delivery line in South Carolina in 2009 rather than in Washington state.

“I gotta tell you it is one of the proudest moments of my life, in my career, when I see out there today what the Charleston team has been able to accomplish,” Conner said.

Reach staff writer Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist on Twitter.

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