A supplier to Boeing has let the cat out of the bag about 787 Dreamliner production numbers. Alessandro Profumo, CEO at Leonardo, says Boeing is about to increase its production of the plane.
Boeing eyes making 10 Dreamliners a month by 2025
Italy-based aerospace and defense group Leonardo makes sections of the 787 Dreamliner’s airframe. According to Reuters, Mr Profumo said Boeing was about to release an updated production plan for the Dreamliner.
“In the next day, they will come out with a new plan,” the Leonardo CEO said at the Dubai Air Show on the weekend. “They are saying they are ‘slightly more optimistic,’ shall we say.”
Ahead of any formal announcement, Boeing has declined to comment on the slip-up. Before the pandemic and dip in demand for new planes, Boeing made 14 Dreamliners a month, having manufactured 1,006 of the aircraft by August 2021.
By May 2021, Boeing was only producing about five Dreamliners a month and flagged further cuts to that number. In addition to demand issues, continuing production and quality control issues at Boeing saw the plane builder halt deliveries for the second time in May.
At the time, Boeing’s Dave Calhoun said he had around 100 Dreamliners in inventory but would only deliver around half of them this year after re-inspecting the already completed planes.
On the weekend, Mr Profumo said Boeing planned to build 10 Dreamliners a month by 2025. That’s a relatively long timeline and still only manufacturing just over half the Dreamliners it was producing before the pandemic.
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Boeing’s ‘strategic risk partner’ makes around 14% of the Dreamliner’s fuselage
Leonardo calls itself a “strategic risk partner for Boeing.” It is a longstanding partnership that dates back to 2004. Leonardo says they manufacture around 14% of the Dreamliner’s fuselage. This includes the horizontal stabilizer at its Foggia plant, both central fuselage sections at Grottaglie, shear-ties in Pomigliano, and metal alloy machined parts in Nola.
When Boeing began manufacturing the Dreamliner over ten years ago, it revolutionized plane building by outsourcing most of the structure and components to suppliers worldwide. While outsourcing wasn’t new, neither Boeing nor Airbus had ever contemplated doing so before on such a large scale.
The strategy proved a boon for businesses that operate on the fringes of the airline industry as suppliers. In the United States, General Electric began making engines for the 787. Spirit Aerosystems was responsible for forward fuselage, flight deck, and nose components. Honeywell International picked up business building flight control electronics. Rockwell Collins manufactured the Dreamliner’s flight deck display, and Hamilton Sundstrand, a unit of United Technologies, put together the internal power systems.
Supplier issues add to Boeing’s Dreamliner woes
Outside the United States, alongside Leonardo, Germany’s Diehl manufactured the Dreamliner’s cabin lighting. France’s Latecoere began building cabin doors. Thales was responsible for the in-flight entertainment system, and Messier-Dowty won the business to manufacture the 787’s landing gear structure.
Previously, components and parts built elsewhere were shipped to Everett, where Boeing put the plane together. Boeing has since shifted production of the aircraft to North Charleston in South Carolina, and suppliers now ship there. Problems at individual suppliers, be they strikes, production delays, or quality issues, invariably flowed through to the Boeing plant – where they had troubles enough of their own.
Alessandro Profumo’s comments on the weekend suggest the tide is turning at Boeing regarding the 787. The increase in production might be limited and over a long time, but it is a turn for the better for the big North American plane builder.
What do you think of Boeing’s apparent plans to build 10 Dreamliners a month by 2025? Ambitious or overly conservative? Post a comment and let us know.