Boeing Co. said it has enough space for now to park the five 787 Dreamliners a month it’s building as the model’s grounding nears the start of its second month.
“We have the space we need now,” Marc Birtel, a spokesman at Boeing’s commercial headquarters in Seattle, said in an interview today. “We won’t speculate for the future.”
Boeing is building about four 787s a month at its wide-body jet factory in Everett, just north of Seattle, and about one a month at its new plant in North Charleston, South Carolina.
The company can’t deliver the jets or fly them away for storage because the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration ordered 787s grounded Jan. 16 while it and the National Transportation Safety Board investigate two battery incidents that occurred last month. The NTSB said last week that it won’t have even an interim report on the investigation for 30 days.
Boeing has delivered 49 of the jets since they entered service in late 2011. The last delivery was in late December, not on Jan. 3 as Boeing had initially reported, Birtel said.
“Boeing is working with Air India toward resolution of the final details to be completed before we officially update the Orders and Delivery website” to reflect that Jan. 3 delivery, he said.
The decision by Chicago-based Boeing to keep producing 787s during the investigation and to keep working toward doubling the output rate to 10 a month by year-end might “bedevil” the company if it ends up needing to redesign the battery system, said Richard Aboulafia, a consultant with Fairfax, Virginia-based Teal Group. He spoke today at the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance conference in Lynnwood, Washington.
“As you can imagine, this has been a really tough several weeks for the 787 program and for our 787 customers,” Randy Tinseth, Boeing’s marketing chief, said at the conference. “Getting the 787 back in the air is our No. 1 priority.”
Tinseth also said the 777X, an upgrade of the popular wide-body plane, will enter service “around the end of the decade,” as has always been planned.
Tim Clark, president of Emirates airline, said earlier this week that he didn’t expect Boeing to start selling the plane for another six to nine months, which would put its official go-ahead about a year behind the original plan.
Aboulafia reiterated his concern that the new 777 model is being delayed. Jim Albaugh, Boeing’s former commercial-planes chief, had said last year that he expected to get approval from the board by the end of 2012.
The 777X probably will have composite wings, new engines and possibly changes to make the 10-abreast seating more comfortable, Tinseth said. He wouldn’t say if that meant a redesign of just the interior or also of the fuselage.
“We’re looking at everything,” Tinseth said.
The marketing chief told reporters that Boeing is “looking for another good year” for orders. The company booked 1,203 net orders for commercial aircraft last year, its second-largest annual total.