Reported by Chris Sloan in Charleston, and James Field

CHARLESTON – The morning of the first 787-10 Dreamliner delivery to launch customer Singapore Airlines, Boeing gave an update on the 787 program as an extended tour around their facility in Charleston, South Carolina.

Having previously been to Charleston on a factory visit, we wanted to see what progress had been made since the visit back in February 2017.

READ MORE: A Visit to Boeing’s South Carolina 787 Final Production Line

787 Programme Update & Briefing

The main area of this briefing was on the 787-10. Boeing has placed a specific focus on the aircraft type maximizing fuel efficiency and family commonality, offering up to 14% more seats than the 787-9 and 13% more cargo than the -9 also.

The -10’s fuselage is also 18 feet longer than the -9. The 787-10 isn’t as long range an aircraft as the 787-9 at 6,430 mmi and 7,635 nmi respectively.

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In terms of their mission for each variant, they do differ significantly. For example, the original  -8 is used for opening new routes and operating thinner point-to-point city pairs. The larger -9, considered the heart of the 787 Family, features the longest range of all three variants, and is optimized for denser long-haul markets.

In terms of payload capacity and length, the 787-10 is sized slightly above the 777-200ER.  The aircraft offers the highest passenger and freight capability of the family with 330 seats in a two-cabin configuration, thus optimized for medium to long-haul routes.

The -10 competes directly with the slightly shorter Airbus A350-900 in terms of length and capacity, though the Airbus product is designed with a wider cross-section and cabin. But the 737-10 loses the battle in terms of range, with the A350-900 offering 8,100nmi.

READ MORE: Air Tahiti Introduces Dreamliner to their Fleet

However, in its presentation Boeing went to great lengths to emphasize that the 787-10 reaches 80% of the world’s population nonstop from Singapore. Singapore Airlines will deploy their 787-10 fleet to replace the 777-200ER on flights within Asian and to Australia.

Osaka, Japan will be the -10’s first regularly scheduled destination in May followed by Perth, Australia. There will be familiarization flights before then to closer destinations.

The 787 Family as a whole, at the time of this briefing, has received 1,320 orders from 71 different customers, with the -10 receiving 211 orders and commitments from 11 different airlines.

READ MORE: It’s Official: Hawaiian Airlines Orders 10 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners (+Photos)

On top of Singapore Airlines receiving the -10, carriers such as Air France/KLM, ANA, Emirates, British Airways, United, EVA Air, GE, ALC and Etihad are among the customer listed to ad the -10 to their fleet. Boeing is not disclosing projected 787-10 deliveries for this year or the next customer to receive it.

There have been 655 total deliveries of the 787, numbering 350 787-8s, 305 787-9s and including the first of the 49 787-10s destined for Singapore.

Boeing also claims that factoring in point-to-point flying that the 787 provides for customers, they have managed to connect up to 170 new markets using the aircraft which had previously been unconnected by other aircraft. The 787 flies 1,573 total routes, which offer 682 unique city-pairs.

Since entering service in October 2011, the 787 has carried over 230 million passengers and has conducted over 1.2 million flights across 7 million flight hours.

The Dreamliner is also flying greater than 12 hours of daily utilization at a 99.4% dispatch reliability percentage, notwithstanding the current problems with the Rolls Royce power plants with some operators.

Boeing also re-emphasized the well known  787 technology and passenger experience story: lower cabin altitude, humidified cabin to reduce jet lag, gust suppression technology for “an eight-fold increase” in a smooth ride, large dimmable windows, and electrical architecture.

Aerodynamically, the laminar flow nacelles, low-noise chevrons and raked wingtips combined with new engine solutions offer significant cost savings to customers of up to 25% in fuel costs and significantly reduced emissions.

READ MORE: Turkish Airlines Finalizes Order for 30 Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners

The wing aerodynamics feature droppable spoilers that increase wing efficiency during landing and take-off. The composite structures enable the aircraft to have a high-aspect ratio design.

South Carolina Facility Update

Boeing then moved onto an update on their South Carolina Facility. On top of the operations that it provides for the 787, the facility is now responsible for the following things:

  • Interiors Responsibility Center
  • Engineering Design Center
  • Boeing Research and Technology
  • Propulsion South Carolina
  • Information Technology Centers
  • C-17 Field Integrated Systems
  • Tapestry Solutions
  • 787 Operations:
    • 787 Aftbody Operations
    • 787 Midbody Operations
    • 787 Final Assembly
    • Pre-Flight, Paint and Delivery

Charleston is the only site that has the full production cycle, or as Boeing like to call it from “freezer to flight”.

The freezer is the fabrication from raw composite materials which are kept in a freezer. From Fabrication, it then proceeds onwards to Puget Sound or to the Final Assembly line. Once they have painted the aircraft after such production, it is then tested and delivered to the prospective customer.

Charleston also places a huge emphasis on the Dreamlifter program which provides efficient transport of the 787’s major sub-assemblies with the main deck being able to hold up to 65,000 cubic feet of cargo, which is three times the capacity of the original 747-400 Freighter.

The Dreamlifter also helps to dramatically reduce final assembly flow times, meaning less inventory and making the company increasingly responsive to change.

READ MORE: Dreamliners Grounded by Virgin Atlantic, Air New Zealand: Engine Woes

Boeing’s VP for the Engineering Design Center also announced that the Dreamlifter’s main operational management will be transferred to Charleston.

Charleston’s investment from Boeing is valued at up to $2 billion in land, facilities, infrastructure, and tools since 2009.

There is significant room for expansion at the Charleston site, though no building is underway. Should the Boeing NMA come to pass, Charleston could certainly be examined as a significant contributor to that program.

Mooney also discussed what motivated Boeing to come to Charleston and invest so massively in the area. He credited the supportive state and local governments, elected officials, business leaders, community and education/training institutions that have been offered to the manufacturer extensively.

Furthermore, Boeing also put the reasoning down to coming to Charleston was because of the aviation cluster with existing aft body and mid-body build and join operations, that Boeing had acquired from Vought and Global.

In terms of production rates for the 787, they expect the rate to increase to 14 per month by 2019 respectively. Boeing does not disclose what percentage of the 787s are assembled at Charleston. The Charleston moving U-shaped Final Assembly Line is nearly identical to its sibling FAL in Everett.

Along the Production Line in Charleston…

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