Boeing CEO affirms 787 output rate despite glitch

Wed Feb 8, 2012 2:43pm EST

Feb 8 (Reuters) - A new glitch on Boeing Co's 787 Dreamliner will not disrupt the company's plan to boost production rates as it tackles the order backlog for the hot-selling carbon-composite airplane, Boeing's chief executive said on Wednesday.

Speaking at an aerospace conference, Jim McNerney stood by the company's goal to make 10 Dreamliners per month by the end of next year.

McNerney's comment cames in the wake of an issue involving incorrect shimming on a support structure on the aft fuselage. Boeing has said all 787s will be inspected for the condition.

Some industry experts have said the inspections and repairs will slow production on the line, which only makes 2.5 787s per month now.

"We do not expect the issue that surfaced earlier this week on the aft fuselage shims to affect our rate ramp-up plans," McNerney said on a webcast of the conference. "We've already addressed the issue in production, and it's a standard repair procedure for any existing airplanes that might be affected."

"Condition of assembly is improving with each airplane and we are closely monitoring the entire supply chain to ensure operational stability as we systematically go to higher rates," he said.

Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is the world's first commercial airplane made largely of lightweight carbon composites. The airplane entered service last year, about three years behind schedule, largely because of snags in the extensive global supply chain.

The latest problem, however, resulted from a manufacturing flaw at a Boeing plant in South Carolina.

McNerney also said demand for Boeing's 737 narrowbody is robust, especially for the upcoming 737 MAX, which will feature a more fuel-efficient engine. The plane is set to enter service in 2017.

Boeing announced plans to build the MAX last year and won its first firm orders for the plane from Southwest Airlines . The company says it has more than 1,000 orders and commitments for the plane from 15 customers.

"We anticipate finalizing most of these agreements this year," McNerney said.

The MAX competes for orders with the Airbus A320neo.