Boeing held its pre-Farnborough media briefings last week, inviting dozens of aviation journalists to Seattle for the first time since the start of the pandemic. Apart from presentations, the event included tours in Renton and Everett to the MAX and 747 production lines. Here are a few pictures of these tours, taken by Addison Schonland.
An Alaska Airlines MAX 9 (above) is on the final assembly line in Renton. The airline has taken delivery of 24 of them already, with the plan to grow the -9 fleet to sixty aircraft. This could become more if Boeing hits trouble certifying the MAX 10 on time and would be required to do a redesign of the cockpit systems to include the Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System (EICAS).
We noted the third MAX 10 was on the production line in full United Airlines livery (main picture). The airline has 150 MAX 10s on order together with fifty -8s it ordered in June 2021.
Southwest Airlines is counting on the delivery of 22 MAX 7s this year, with one of them on the line in Renton. But the type still needs to receive the type certificate, although Boeing is confident this will happen in time this year. To make sure that its growth plans go uninterrupted, Southwest revised its MAX order in April: it reduced the number of MAX 7s on order by 26 to 238 until 2030 and increased those for the MAX 8 by 81 to 211 through 2031, with 81 expected to be delivered this year.
Apart from the certification issues, the MAX line is suffering from supply chain issues. Two of the three lines in Renton are used right now, allowing for a maximum production rate of 31 per month. In May, Boeing delivered 29 MAX, which includes aircraft that have been in inventory since the grounding of the MAX in March 2019. Boeing wants to stabilize production at rate 31 first before it thinks of going to higher rates.
In Everett, we saw the third last 747-8F on the final assembly line. All three will be produced for Atlas Air, which recently took delivery of the first -8F in its fleet. The wings for the last 747 have already been produced and the line is expected to close in November after 52 years of production.
Elsewhere in Everett, we saw the production of the 777F in full swing, but that for the 777-9 has been paused until late next year as Boeing is working with the regulators to get the certification of the type done. The airframer said earlier this year that delivery of the first 777-9 will slip from late 2023 to 2024.
Although the 787 is no longer assembled in Everett, the former assembly line still was occupied by some five Dreamliners on which rework was being done. Together with teams from Spirit AeroSystems, Boeing is doing rework on the 787s on which production quality issues (shimming, skin flatness) have been found in the aft and front fuselage sections and forward pressure bulkhead. Also, rework needs to be done on all Dreamliners around the doors. In April, Boeing said it had 115 Dreamliners in inventory. The airframer is waiting for approval from the FAA to restart delivering aircraft, but the agency is carefully reviewing the plan that Boeing submitted in April on how the production shortfalls will be prevented in the future.
Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
In 2022, he has gone full-time freelance. Richard has been contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He is also writing for Airliner World and Aviation News and until July 1 2023 in a part-time role with Dutch website and magazine Luchtvaartnieuws. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.