787 ready for takeoff

by The Post & Courier

When Boeing hands over its first 787 Dreamliner to Japan’s All Nippon Airways today in Everett, Wash., the leadership of the aircraft manufacturer’s North Charleston plant will be on hand for the historic occasion.

Boeing South Carolina spokeswoman Candy Eslinger said she didn’t “have all the names” of the local contingent making the trip but confirmed the “small group” would include Jack Jones and Marco Cavazzoni. Jones is general manager of Boeing South Carolina, and Cavazzoni is general manager of final assembly and delivery.

“I know both of them are going,” Eslinger said this week.

TV time

If you aren’t able to catch the big delivery day festivities during your lunch break today, you might tune in Tuesday night for a CNBC special titled “Dreamliner: Inside the World’s Most Anticipated Airplane.”

“With significant access inside the company,” the network promises, “CNBC Correspondent Phil LeBeau brings viewers to the factory floor and inside the executive suite to follow the high-stakes story of one of the last great American manufacturing companies.”

The hourlong documentary, which airs at 9 and 10 p.m., also examines the rocky relationship between Boeing and the International Aerospace Machinists Union. It is that strife that the National Labor Relations Board claims is the reason Boeing built a second 787 production line to South Carolina.

Local progress

The focus next week will be on the Pacific Northwest, but Boeing’s South Carolina plant has marked several of its own milestones recently.

This month, the major parts that will constitute the first locally assembled Dreamliner, made a small but important step forward. The fuselage, wings and other pieces moved from Position 0 to Position 1, the first progression along the U-shaped assembly line within the massive Final Assembly and Delivery building.

Whereas Position 0 is essentially a staging area, Position 1 is where the parts are joined together.

“It moved in phases,” Eslinger said when asked the date of the move. “It didn’t just all move together.”

The first plane’s General Electric engines, which arrived in late August, won’t be installed in the plane until it reaches position 2. That is likely to happen next month.

The plane must move through a total of eight positions before rolling onto the flight line. The first plane is expected to be finished by mid-2012.

Campus update

While the plane is taking shape inside the factory, the campus outside also is coming into form.

Construction continues around the periphery of the property next to the airport and there are still braces on the palmettos that line the plant’s entrance driveway, but the end is in sight.

After eating for months at a temporary facility, Boeing employees now can dine in the campus cafeteria.

Operated by facility services provider Eurest Thompson, it opened Sept. 12. The cafeteria is housed in a glassy building known as The Hub, which sits between the three main production facilities at the plant.

The rest of The Hub, which includes meeting space and other employee service offices, will open in mid-October, Eslinger said.

Another major feature also will be up and running in a few weeks: the rooftop solar panels. The 10-acre electricity farm, which consists of rows of thin, laminated strips, was announced in April. A collaboration with South Carolina Electric & Gas Co., it is expected to provide 20 percent of the site’s renewable energy.

It hasn’t been completely smooth-sailing over at Boeing. Last Friday, a North Charleston sewer system “lift pump mechanical malfunction” caused a wastewater backup at the assembly plant, Eslinger said in an email. Among the disruptions, work had to be stopped in one area “for less than an hour to allow for clean up,” she said.

Testing determined “there was no risk to the health or environment at our site,” she added.

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