Boeing Sets Highest Ever 777 Rate As Emirates Takes 1,000th

Boeing delivered the 1,000th 777 to Emirates Airlines today amid assembly line changes that will push the production later this year to the highest level ever for a Boeing widebody.

The delivery to Emirates, which coincided with the March 1 inauguration of the airline’s first direct service from Seattle to Dubai, cements the Middle East operator as the largest single user of the 777 with more than 100 in service. The airline, which started in 1985 with two leased aircraft and three destinations, also has almost 100 more on order. At a ceremony at Boeing’s Everett, Wash., site, Emirates Chairman and CEO Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed al Maktoum also accepted delivery of a 777 freighter as part of a two-year expansion program that will add 20 destinations to its international network by the end of 2012.

Preparations, meanwhile, are under way at Everett to accelerate the 777 production rate from seven units per month to 8.3. The “rate break” will officially begin in October ahead of the first delivery at the new level in the first quarter of 2013, or 48 production days later, says 777 Director of Manufacturing Jason Clark. The rate change means one aircraft will be completed every 2.5 days versus every three days currently. “We’ve never been there before—this is the highest rate for a dual-aisle,” he adds. Boeing plans eventually to exceed this rate with the 787, but that transition is not due to take place until late 2013.

The increased rate also means that Boeing will produce 100 777s per year, marking a major step upward on continuing plans to shrink cycle time and eat into the backlog, which currently stands at 1,361, not including the recent unconfirmed order from China. “It’s a race to 2,000,” says Clark, who adds the company also recently delivered the 50th 777 freighter.