Working To Catch-Up On Dreamliner
If you're looking for an example of just how serious Boeing is
about avoiding a second production-related delay to its 787
Dreamliner program, consider this -- the American planemaker will
keep most of the 787 production line open through the company's
traditional holiday break period.
The Seattle Times reports 787 technicians will work three
shifts, around the clock, through most of the next week -- even as
Boeing's other lines shut down for nearly two weeks for the
holiday. Apart from running a single shift on Christmas and New
Year's eves, and a day off on each of the two holidays, the
Dreamliner line will continue to run in Everett.
The reason why is clear -- Boeing is playing an important game
of catch-up, to put its most vaunted current jet program back on
track, following its announcement earlier this year of a six-month
"We're working very hard to recover from that," said Boeing
Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Scott Carson in recent
interview with the Seattle paper. "You build a reputation over a
long period of time and you can lose it in a heartbeat."
In order for Boeing to meet its revised schedule, the first 787
-- the one shown to the public in a lavish ceremony in July, then
promptly disassembled and reassembled with permanent fasteners --
must fly by the end of March, and the program must win
certification prior to delivery of the first plane to All Nippon
Airways by the end of '08.
Even Carson admits that'll be tough, and assumes no significant
issues crop up with the Dreamliner during flight testing.
"Are there likelihoods of any surprises? Man, that's a roll of
the die," Carson said. "On balance, we think this is a reasonably
achievable program -- the kind of risks we have come to understand
over the years."
Adding another potential complication to Boeing's ambitious
schedule for 2008 -- which, in addition to the 787, Boeing hopes
will also see a big contract win in the US Air Force KC-X tanker
program, and the first production US Navy P-8A Multi-mission
Maritime Aircraft coming off the line -- are looming negotiations
with the International Association of Machinists and the Society of
Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.
To meet its ambitious goals, Boeing must absolutely avoid labor
strife... but, fortunately for the planemaker, so far at least one
union representative has kind words for Carson and his chief labor
negotiator, Doug Kight.
"We're in the best shape we've been in in a long time to get a
good contract," said Tom Wroblewski, president of Machinist
district lodge 751. "It's nice to know we've got a couple of guys
over there engaging us in talks."
Wroblewski adds the atmosphere for negotiations has improved
over those men's predecessors, Alan Mulally and Jerry Calhoun.
"We've had more dialogue in terms of contract than we've had in a
dozen previous years," he said.
Of course, money helps... and Boeing appears to realize that.
This week, the planemaker agreed to a deal to award nearly $1
million in back pay, split among roughly 200 machinists, to match a
raise given initially to later hires.
Which, come to think of it, will probably make it a bit less
painful for those workers to show up on the job next week.