One way to track progress on Boeing’s 787 is to watch the movements of Boeing’s 747 Dreamlifter fleet. The specially-modified planes pick up shipments from the 787 major structural suppliers and deliver them to Boeing’s Everett, Wash. plant for final assembly. In Wichita, the planes pick up nose sections from Spirit AeroSystems. UBS Investment Research analyst David Strauss is tracking the fleet’s movements.
Strauss, in a justs-released report, has concluded that supplier deliveries on the 787 have resumed at roughly prestrike levels. Boeing’s hourly workers struck the company for almost two months this fall. The strike halted 787 component deliveries.
Dreamlifter arrivals in Wichita have recommenced at low rates, the report said. The slow pace reflects the final assembly bottleneck at Boeing. “We are watching for an increase in Dreamlifter activity that supports Boeing being able to hit its revised flight test schedule and projected steep production ramp,” it said.
Strauss tracked 10 Dreamlifter arrivals into Everett in November and four into Charleston, S.C. from Grottaglie, Italy. There were three flights from Wichita to Everett in November, a rate that is “in line with pre-strike levels of activity.” The analyst also noted “larger-than-normal number of Dreamlifter stopovers in Wichita on the way from Charleston to Everett.”
Boeing’s Dreamlifter fleet consists of three modified 747s. They bring wings from Japan, the aft fuselage from Charleston, S.C., the center fuselage from Italy and Japan (which are integrated in Charleston) and the nose section from Wichita.
Not every arrival involves delivery of major structural components, Strauss notes. So not all of them can be used as an proxy for production rates. But tracking the Dreamlifters will help gauge progress, the report said.