Boeing Open to Raising 787 Output Again to Shrink Backlog

Boeing Co. Chief Executive Officer James McNerney is open to another increase in production rates for the 787 Dreamliner so the world’s largest planemaker can shrink a backlog of 840 jets.

A faster tempo would give Boeing a chance to attract new customers, McNerney said today an interview, as waiting times now run six years or more. Output is already supposed to double in 2013 to 10 a month, and he didn’t give a possible goal.

“We haven’t decided to do that yet, because we’re just trying to keep our feet underneath us,” McNerney said aboard United Airlines Flight 1 from Houston to Chicago as the 787 resumed U.S. flying after a three-month grounding. “That’s one thing we could do to bring the backlog down and make spaces for people who want to buy the aircraft.”

Boeing has been gradually increasing production since the plane’s commercial debut in 2011 after more than 3 1/2 years of delays left dozens of Dreamliners sitting in temporary storage. The 787 is the world’s first jetliner made chiefly of composite-plastic materials.

Airlines have taken deliveries of 52 of the twin-engine wide-bodies, which start at a list price of $206.8 million. Production is now running at a rate of seven a month, the Chicago-based company said in April.

The handovers were halted this year after the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration grounded the Dreamliner fleet in January, the first such move since 1979, after malfunctions in its lithium-ion batteries.

The FAA recertified the 787 for flight last month after Boeing redesigned the battery with more insulation between cells, a steel case to contain any overheating and tubing to vent any gas outside the fuselage. United Continental Holdings Inc., the only U.S. operator of the Dreamliner, restarted 787 service with today’s flight.

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