Thursday, January 2, 2014
The live flight tracker on the fourth floor of the Boeing final assembly building shows the view of a cockpit. A computerized airplane projects 3-D flight routes over a map.
These real-time flight trackers show about 20 Boeing 787 Dreamliners flying around the world on Dec. 19.
On this day local news media was invited to the North Charleston facility for a recap of the aerospace giant’s accomplishments throughout 2013.
Of the three years and nine months Boeing has been in South Carolina, 2013 was the busiest. That’s according to Boeing S.C. VP and General Manager Jack Jones.
By the end of 2013 Boeing S.C. was making 10 airplane mid- and aft-bodies per month.
The mid- and aft-body sections of all 787s are built at Boeing’s North Charleston plant.
“Boeing South Carolina is the first to achieve those rates,” Jones said, adding that it is the highest production rate for a wide-body airplane. “Rate transitions are significantly challenging. We’re going from seven to 10 airplanes a month, about a 33 percent increase.”
Between Seattle and North Charleston, Boeing was on track to manufacture 60 Dreamliners by the end of the year, according to Jones.
The company is adding on to the mid-body, aft-body and other buildings, which means employee parking spaces have been sacrificed, but an area has been cleared to add parking, Jones said.
In January, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) grounded 787s due to battery problems. Jones said he gives kudos to the Seattle engineering team that fixed the issue in four months. The delivery of the jumbo jets to airlines resumed in June.
Boeing S.C. announced in March that new IT “Centers of Excellence” would be established here. This is a whole new recruiting ground for design engineers, Jones said.
Boeing announced in May that the 737 MAX engine inlet design and assembly is coming to the area and will be known as “Propulsion South Carolina.”
The company also said it invested another $1 billion in the state and will create 2,000 new jobs over the next eight years.
May was also the month Boeing S.C. delivered the first 787-9 mid- and aft-fuselage sections to Seattle for final assembly.
The 787-9 is 20 feet longer, has more range and can carry 40 more passengers, Jones said. The 787-9 is undergoing test flights.
In September, the S.C. Chamber of Commerce and S.C. Diversity Council named Boeing the 2013 “Workplace in Diversity” award winner.
In November, ground was broken on the propulsion facility.
In December, the company announced it will start building a 230,000 square-foot paint facility in the second half of 2014. It is expected to be in operation by mid-2016.
“The paint area optimizes production,” Jones said. “After testing, we fly it to Ft. Worth, Texas for paint. It’s not optimum. It disrupts flow. Paint is the one thing we see on all the airplanes.”
As more aircraft are brought to the flight line, (on this day there are five), fire protection must be centrally-located, Jones said. Boeing has its own fire station and fire trucks.
Jones said Boeing S.C. needs an additional autoclave, essentially a big oven that melts carbon fiber together and gives it strength. There are currently about 6,600 Boeing employees in South Carolina.