Boeing Co. is in talks for the manufacture of as many as 10 fuselages a month for its new 787 Dreamliner, more than the seven originally agreed with Alenia Aeronautica, a unit of Finmeccanica SpA, the Italian industrial giant.
Alenia is spending $720.2 million to build 14 percent of the Dreamliner's structure, including two body sections and the horizontal tail, Alenia CEO Giuseppe Giordo said Monday in an interview.
"We are now planning seven a month and also discussing the possibility of 10 a month," Giordo said. "If things continue as they are with 787 orders, we will have to start talking to Boeing about more."
Boeing spokeswoman Yvonne Leach declined to comment on 787 production plans, except to say that a decision on an increase would be made this summer.
The Dreamliner now has firm orders for 464 planes from 37 airlines, making it Boeing's most successful new airliner program.
Wing components and floor beams for the plane are being produced in Tulsa by Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems Inc.
Finmeccanica CEO Pier Francesco Guarguaglini said two years ago that Boeing had asked the company to potentially double its production rate to 14 fuselages a month.
"Everything is feasible," Giordo said last week. "The issue is investment. Sometimes it's not a matter of technological feasibility; it's the investment and business case it takes to make it happen."
Boeing CEO James McNerney has been in talks with 787 suppliers for more than a year to find ways to increase production as demand for the Dreamliner ex ceeds initial plans. He is also investing an additional $1 billion to keep new- aircraft programs, including the 787, and their suppliers on schedule.
The 787 is still slated for delivery in May 2008, even as Boeing spends the additional money on parts makers that have fallen behind, McNerney said Feb. 6.
Boeing is sending its own engineers to suppliers producing the composite carbon-fiber wing and body parts, including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., Kawasaki Heavy Industries Ltd., Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Alenia. The engineers are there to make sure the first parts come in when they're needed.
Giordo declined to give specific details on problems that put his company behind. He said Alenia's work on the aircraft components is now proceeding on schedule, with the first parts arriving in Charleston, S.C., from Italy before the end of this quarter.
"The program is going as expected," he said. "Nothing is easy in the beginning when you're talking about such a high-tech program."
Alenia and closely held Vought Aircraft Industries Inc. of Dallas are in a joint venture based in Charleston, where fuselage elements will be stuffed with parts, then delivered to Boeing's plant in Everett, Wash., for assembly. Boeing's goal is to put the plane together in three days.
The aircraft maker plans to deliver a total of 112 twin- engine 787s in 2008 and 2009. That is an increase from an earlier projection of 96. Any further boost in production would start in 2010.
Alenia will have 1,000 workers dedicated to the 787 by the end of the year, Giordo said.
The Tulsa World Business staff contributed to this report.
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