Scott Fancher, VP in charge of the Boeing 787 program, believes delivery of the first Boeing 787 will, at long last, be achieved in the third quarter.
In a briefing in advance of the Paris Air Show, Fancher told media that the tasks remaining to be completed before first delivery to launch customer ANA are declining every day. While Fancher could not assure the media that the Federal Aviation Administration will certify the airplane on the schedule Boeing envisions, neither did he reveal whether there are any potential show-stoppers.
Fancher is sticking to his generic third quarter delivery forecast. Wall Street analysts are divided over whether delivery will be in August or September, but consensus appears to be the latter.
ANA pilots have been in training at Boeing and a major milestone is scheduled for July 4, when ANA and Boeing personnel have a major media event planned in Tokyo for some route proving flights.
Fancher was asked about production ramp up, about which analysts are highly skeptical. Fancher said Boeing is making “good progress,” with “relatively few design changes at the front end. The key is to get to stable operation. We’re seeing productivity quality numbers better than anticipated.”
He dismissed a report by UBS which conclude production ramp up will be much slower than Boeing assumes.
“The data we’ve seen to date is this system responds like other systems,” he said. Current production is 2.5 airplanes per month; Boeing forecasts a rate of 10 per month by year-end 2013.
Fancher acknowledged it will take “years” to complete rework on 787-8s that have been produced and will be produced through a series of block point changes. A separate facility at Paine Field in Everett, where the 787 is assembled, has been leased from MRO ATS where the rework will be done.
“[It’s] just like a separate production line, with a dedicated facility, dedicated leadership and dedicated staff,” he said.
Boeing is now designing the 787-9, with development “doing quite well. Initial loads have been released and critical design review is approaching. It’s much better than the 787-8,” he said. “We’re not seeing the same leading indicators we saw on the -8. We’re down to detailed design.”
(We privately asked Fancher is the 787-9 would be built in Charleston (SC), where the second assembly line is being established. The issue is highly sensitive due to the move by the National Labor Relations Board general counsel seeking a board ruling to force Boeing to build the three 787s a month slated for Charleston in Everett due to alleged illegal retaliation by Boeing for a labor strike in 2008. Fancher paused, laughed, and said, “Nice try.”)
Fancher acknowledged that rate ramp up “is always a challenge, no doubt about it.” But he said the company is applying “lessons learned” from the early program production debacles and rates will ramp up in steps to assure stability.