Boeing to cut jobs at second Dreamliner plant: report

SEATTLE, Fri Feb 28, 2013 — Boeing Co. will cut hundreds of jobs at a South Carolina plant that makes 787 Dreamliners over the course of this year, but the move has nothing to do with the recent grounding of the troubled jetliner, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

The cuts, which chiefly target contract workers, are not uncommon as productivity improves on a new airplane program and were conceived before major problems with the 787s battery surfaced, the Journal said. Two high-profile battery malfunctions led to international aviation regulators grounding the jetliner in mid-January.

The cuts could account for up to 20 percent of the workforce in some teams at the plant in North Charleston, South Carolina, the Journal reported, citing an unnamed source familiar with the plan. Overall, the plant employs more than 6,000 people.

Boeing did not confirm the layoffs, but did tell Reuters it plans to reduce reliance on contract workers at the South Carolina plant.

“Boeing regularly uses contract labor and ‘industry assist’ to supplement its workforce during surge activities and on development programs that require a production ramp up – that’s standard practice in the aerospace industry,” said Marc Birtel, a Boeing spokesman. “As we progress in improving efficiencies in our processes, training our entry-level employees and growing the experience of our team in South Carolina, we expect to continue to reduce reliance on contract labor/industry assist to meet our production objectives.”

The South Carolina plant is the second Boeing facility where 787s are assembled after the larger Everett, Wash., facility north of Seattle. Between them, Boeing turns out five Dreamliners per month.

So far, the plane maker has said production has not been slowed by the grounding of

United Continental says removing Boeing 787 from flight plans

CHICAGO, Fri Feb 22, 2013 — United Continental Holdings said on Thursday it was taking Boeing Co.’s grounded 787 Dreamliner out of its flying plans through June 5, except for a Denver-to-Tokyo route scheduled for a tentative launch in May.

United’s decision came as a Japanese investigation of a fuel leak on a Dreamliner operated by Japan Airlines Co. Ltd. indicated the cause to be a coating around the mechanism that controls fuel movement between tanks.

Japanese officials launched the investigation after two fuel leaks on the JAL 787, just days before authorities around the world grounded the new lightweight passenger jets over battery failures that sparked fires on two planes in January.

Japanese authorities still have not found the cause of the battery issue.

Airlines operating 787s are setting schedules for coming months while still uncertain about when the plane will be able to resume service following the fleet’s grounding five weeks ago.

Boeing is due to meet with the head of the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration on Friday to present measures designed to prevent further battery failures, a source told Reuters, even though the root cause of the electrical problem has not been determined.

Boeing close to fixing Dreamliner battery: source

CHICAGO, Wed Feb 20, 2013 — Boeing Co. has found a way to fix battery problems with its grounded 787 Dreamliner jets which involves increasing the space between cells, a source familiar with the U.S. company’s plans told Reuters.

“The gaps between cells will be bigger. I think that’s why there was overheating,” said the source, who declined to be identified because the plans are private.

The 50 Dreamliners in commercial service were grounded worldwide last month after a series of battery-related incidents including a fire on board a parked plane in the United States and an in-flight problem on another jet in Japan. Until the Dreamliner is cleared to fly again, Boeing will be starved of delivery payments.

The logical solution for Boeing would be to install ceramic plates between each cell and add a vent to the battery box, Kiyoshi Kanamura, a professor at Tokyo Metropolitan University who has conducted research with several Japanese battery makers, told Reuters on Tuesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, the chairman of state-run Air India said Boeing is hopeful of getting the Dreamliner back in service by early April.

Boeing sees no big impact from 787 woes, profit beats

NEW YORK, Wed Jan 30, 2013 — Boeing Co. posted a stronger-than-expected profit on Wednesday as its backlog of orders rose, and said its 2013 forecast “assumes no significant financial impact” from the grounding of its 787 Dreamliner jet by regulators.

Shares were up 1.6 percent at 74.80 in premarket trading.

Aviation safety agencies in the United States and Japan are investigating what caused lithium-ion batteries to burn on two 787 passenger jets earlier this month, prompting regulators to ground the planes worldwide.

Boeing said it is continuing to build the Dreamliner, but has halted deliveries, and analysts have raised concerns about the cost of the grounding and for fixing the battery problem on about 125 jets that Boeing has built so far.

“Our first order of business for 2013 is to resolve the battery issue on the 787 and return the airplanes safely to service with our customers,” said Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney.

Boeing’s earnings, outlook overshadowed by 787 unknowns

NEW YORK, Tue Jan 29, 2013 — Just over a month ago, Boeing was flying high.

Its airplane factories were humming and speeding up production. Its defense business had just been restructured to deal with dwindling budgets in the United States and Europe. The company was confident enough to increase its dividend and resume buying back shares.

Perhaps best of all, Boeing was shortly to reclaim the title of world’s biggest plane maker, snatching back an honor that its arch rival Airbus had held for a decade.

But with its new 787 Dreamliner still grounded by two battery failures on the eve of its 2012 earnings release, the Chicago-based aerospace and defense giant is in no position to rest on laurels.

Analysts and investors are likely to grill Chief Executive Jim McNerney about the costs of fixing the 787 when the company reports earnings on Wednesday.

Those costs are unknown but mounting daily as airlines are barred from using the high-tech plane. Boeing is still building five Dreamliners a month but isn’t delivering them to customers. With each of them carrying a list price of $207 million, they quickly become an expensive pile of jets outside Boeing’s factories in Everett, Washington and North Charleston, South Carolina.

That is why Wall Street is looking for guidance from McNerney about how painful the grounding is getting.

Dreamliner probe widens after excess battery voltage ruled out

WASHINGTON, Mon Jan 21, 2013 — U.S. safety investigators on Sunday ruled out excess voltage as the cause of a battery fire this month on a Boeing Co. 787 Dreamliner jet operated by Japan Airlines Co. and said they were expanding the probe to look at the battery’s charger and the jet’s auxiliary power unit.

Last week, governments across the world grounded the Dreamliner while Boeing halted deliveries after a problem with a lithium-ion battery on a second 787 plane, flown by All Nippon Airways Co., forced the aircraft to make an emergency landing in western Japan.

A growing number of investigators and Boeing executives are working around the clock to determine what caused the two incidents which the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration says released flammable chemicals and could have sparked a fire in the plane’s electrical compartment.

There are still no clear answers about the root cause of the battery failures, but the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board’s statement eliminated one possible answer that had been raised by Japanese investigators.

Boeing Dreamliner incidents raise safety concerns

NEW YORK/TOKYO, Wed Jan 9, 2013 — Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliner jet suffered a third mishap in as many days on Wednesday, heightening safety concerns after a string of setbacks for the new aircraft.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways said it was forced to cancel a 787 Dreamliner flight scheduled to from fly from Yamaguchi prefecture in western Japan to Tokyo due to brake problems.

That followed a fuel leak on Tuesday that forced a 787 operated by Japan Airlines to cancel take-off at Boston’s Logan International Airport, a day after an electrical fire on another 787 after a JAL flight to Boston from Tokyo.

Asian customers rallied behind the U.S. planemaker, however, saying such teething troubles were not uncommon on new planes and confirming they had no plans to scale back or cancel orders for the aircraft, which has a list price of $207 million.

Boeing says to meet 787 year goals despite delamination glitch

CHICAGO, Wed Mar 14, 2012 − The head of Boeing Co’s. Commercial Airplanes unit reaffirmed on Wednesday that the plane-maker can correct a glitch on the 787 Dreamliner and meet its delivery goals for the plane this year.

The light-weight, carbon-composite airplane is already three years behind its development schedule. In February, Boeing reported signs of “delamination” on the rear fuselage of some 787s, calling into question the company’s plan to build 10 of the airplanes per month by the end of next year.

“I see nothing to date that leads me to believe that we won’t deliver all the 787s we have in our plan by the end of the year,” Jim Albaugh told a JP Morgan Aviation, Transportation and Defense conference that was broadcast over the Internet.

Delamination occurs when stress causes layered composite materials to separate. The issue was the result of a manufacturing error that occurred at a Boeing plant in South Carolina.

Boeing has said that the problem may affect the first 55 Dreamliners built and that it will take 10 to 14 days per plane to repair. Boeing has said the repair may affect deliveries in the first part of 2012, but not in the longer term.

“Between the 787 and the 747, we should deliver between 70 and 85 of those airplanes this year. It’s split pretty evenly between the two airplanes,” Albaugh said. The 747 is the largest commercial airplane Boeing makes.

Many experts doubt that Boeing can hit the 10-per-month rate target for Dreamliners. The current rate is 3.5 per month.

Despite the delays, the Dreamliner is a hit among customers, who have ordered about 870. Boeing delivered the first 787 last year. The company assembles 787s at plants in Washington and South Carolina. Boeing expects the first 787 assembled in South Carolina to be completed next month.

Boeing to correct 787 Dreamliner fuselage issue

SEATTLE – Boeing has discovered a problem related to the aft fuselage of its 787 Dreamliner planes and is making repairs that will not affect production of the aircraft, the company said in an emailed statement on Sunday.

The 787 Dreamliner is a light-weight, fuel-efficient, carbon-composite aircraft. It was three years behind its development schedule but finally entered service last year.

“Boeing has found that incorrect shimming was performed on support structure on the aft fuselage of some 787s,” Boeing spokesman Scott Lefeber said.

Lefeber added, “We do not expect that it will affect our planned product rate increases,” and that there are no short-term safety concerns.

Boeing aims to ramp up monthly production on the airplane to 10 by the end of 2013. Some experts believe the target rate is too ambitious, but Boeing is standing by it.

Lefeber declined to identify how many aircraft were affected.

The news was first reported by the aviation website Flightglobal.

Long-delayed Boeing Dreamliner ready for prime time

CHICAGO ― Boeing Co’s. 787 Dreamliner, the world’s first commercial airplane made largely of lightweight composite materials, is set for first delivery to a customer next week, the pinnacle achievement in the life of one of Boeing’s most challenging airplane programs.

It has been a rocky road for the Dreamliner program, which is more than three years behind schedule and several billion dollars over budget by some estimates.

But with Japan’s All Nippon Airways Co. Ltd. set to take delivery of the first 787 on Sunday, payday is almost at hand for the storied plane, which has been in development since 2003.

“It represents a new era for aircraft in terms of manufacturing and in terms of consumer use,” said Alex Hamilton, managing director of EarlyBirdCapital.

“Now the conversation among the industry is that it truly is an amazing plane and a lot of people can’t wait to be in it,” he said.

Boeing, which competes for plane orders with EADS unit Airbus, has planned three days of celebrations to commemorate the delivery.

Contractual delivery, a technical step in which payment for the plane changes hands, occurs on Sunday. But Boeing plans to trumpet the delivery again on Monday with a party at its assembly plant in Everett, Washington, near Seattle. The airplane leaves for Japan on Tuesday.

The 787 festivities may help Boeing overcome some of the gloom inflicted last week when another major first delivery — the 747-8 Freighter — was abruptly postponed because of a contract dispute with the customer.

Despite seven embarrassing delays for the program, the 787, which competes with the Airbus A350, has proved popular with airline customers. The company had taken orders for 821 Dreamliners as of Sept. 23.

Boeing has said it faces financial headwinds for the Dreamliner but has not disclosed how much it spent on development or when it expects to make money on the program.

The company now faces the daunting task of working through the enormous order backlog and getting its production rate up to the promised 10 a month by the end of 2013.

“I’m very skeptical that they’re able to do that by 2013,” Hamilton said. “That’s a very short timeline. Look how long it took them to get it out the door. I would assume they could get there if there were no hiccups, but I think the expectation of having no hiccups is a little naive.”

The 787 Dreamliner, which costs between $185.2 million and $218.1 million, is a mid-sized widebody plane with an airframe made largely of lightweight carbon composites.

The airplane promises 20 percent greater fuel efficiency than similar-sized planes. The use of carbon composites allows a higher cabin humidity for a more comfortable ride.

Boeing also attempted to revolutionize the development and assembly of the airplane, making greater use than ever of an extensive global supply chain and relying less on its traditional workforce in Washington state.

The goal of the global supply chain was to spread financial risk among more participants and to find the best possible talent to design and build the components. But supply chain glitches rippled through the system and led to program delays.Boeing has said that for future programs it would bring more of the work back in-house. Boeing Chief Executive Jim McNerney has said the program “may have been overly ambitious, incorporating too many firsts all at once.”