Why The Boeing 787-10 Is Only Made In Charleston

Did you know that Boeing only builds the Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner in its South Carolina production facility? Why doesn’t Boeing offer final assembly of its 787-10 at its facility in Washington state, and what is the history of the southern factory? Let’s explore.

Boeing 787-10
Boeing exclusively builds the Boeing 787-10 in South Carolina. Photo: Boeing

The tale of two (Boeing) cities

Boeing has a few major production plants:

  • Everett, Washington – Builds the Boeing 747, 767, 777, and 787 aircraft.
  • Renton, Washington – Builds the Boeing 737 aircraft.
  • North Charleston, South Carolina – Builds 787 aircraft.

There are a few more sites across the US that Boeing utilizes for testing and other product development, but these three are the primary locations for final aircraft assembly.

Jetstar 787
Boeing builds the 787 over two production facilities. Photo: Jetstar

You may notice that two facilities both build the Boeing 787: Everett and North Charleston. In terms of production capacity, Boeing can build eight Boeing 787s in North Charleston. Everett shares 787 production with other aircraft types, so it’s harder to put a specific number on Dreamliner building capacity.

For reference, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner can take anywhere from 25-40 days to build, depending on the timing of part deliveries. Boeing sources parts in Italy, Japan, and in Charleston itself. To ensure that components can get to where they need to be, Boeing utilizes a fleet of Boeing Dreamlifter aircraft to move fuselages and other parts around (Boeing stations two of these cargo planes in South Carolina).

Boeing Dreamlifter carries various parts to different production facilities. Photo: Altair78 via Wikimedia Commons.

Why does Boeing build the 787 in South Carolina?

Boeing has been a victim of its success. Due to the number of orders the 787 has received over the years (1,510 orders as of May 2020), Boeing realized that it could not build them fast enough at its main facility. At least, not while maintaining output of other large aircraft like the Boeing 747-8F.

So, Boeing moved production of the 787 to a new facility in 2011 to help meet market demand and shifted logistical support to the region. Boeing already sourced parts from the local area (and had made several investments into supplier companies), so it made sense also to complete the final assembly nearby.

The Boeing South Carolina 787 factory (The building in the middle with the solar panels in the main factory). Photo: Boeing

Other advantages include being able to run operations even if local weather affected one facility (like a blizzard hitting Washington or a hurricane in South Carolina), and take advantage of different tax benefits in other states.

However, this doesn’t explain why Boeing doesn’t build the 787-10 in Everett, only why the Boeing builds the 787 in Charleston.

Cathay Pacific, Boeing 777X, Boeing 787-10
Boeing builds every 787-10 in the North Charleston facility. Photo: Boing

Why is the Boeing 787-10 only built in North Charleston?

Remember those parts that are shipped by the Boeing Dreamlifter?

Well, it turns out that the fuselage sections built in Charleston that are made exclusively for the Boeing 787-10 don’t fit onboard the cargo plane. Thus Boeing has to complete the final assembly down in South Carolina.

The first Boeing 787-10 was completed in May 2018 and handed over to Singapore Airlines in South Carolina.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.