Boeing has sold more than 500 of its new fuel-efficient 787 passenger jets and is looking for ways to speed production rates, the company said Tuesday.
"We've clearly captivated the world's airlines with this airplane," 787 program chief Mike Bair told hundreds of Boeing workers gathered for the announcement.
Bair also said Boeing is studying ways to increase production rates for the 787. But he said a likely production speedup would only occur after the first 112 airplanes are produced in 2008-09.
Bair would not disclose how many airplanes per month the Chicago-based company plans to produce at its Washington state plants once the assembly process hits its stride.
The 787 is scheduled to make its first flight in late August, and enter commercial service in 2008.
Boeing Co. has now collected 514 orders for the 787, which is designed to burn 20 percent less fuel than comparable airplanes by using more lightweight composites.
A little more than half of the plane's structure is made up of carbon-fiber composites, a first for Boeing.
Another first for Boeing is the amount of work on major structures being handled by other companies around the world, which then ship the pieces to U.S. factories.
Just last week, Boeing disclosed orders that put the 787's sales book at 491. Several unnamed customers have now been added to the total, taking the order tally to 514.
The actual sale that pushed the 787 past 500 was an order for five 787-8 jets from Japan Airlines International Corp., adding to its previous order for 30 of the new jets.
Boeing shares rose $1.07, or 1.2 percent, to close at $89.90 on the New York Stock Exchange. Boeing stock has traded between $72.13 and $92.24 in the past year.
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