Boeing 787's production schedule unchanged

Boeing is continuing to maintain its existing production schedule for the beleaguered 787, even though regulatory authorities grounded the aircraft worldwide earlier this month.

Boeing CEO Jim McNerney said Wednesday in a conference call announcing fourth-quarter and full-year results that the company is “rigorously” supporting the investigation of lithium batteries on the 787s and is working with the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Aviation Administration and Japan’s Transport Safety Board.

McNerney said that these sorts of processes are what make air travel the world’s safest transportation. He said experts from Boeing and outside Boeing on working on the problem.

“Nothing is more important to us than the safety of flight crews and passengers,” McNerney said.

He added that Boeing will get to the bottom of the problem and restore confidence in the 787. He said that production of the 787 continues as planned, and added that the plane had been in service for 15 months before being grounded.

He said there was little he could say publicly about the investigation. He said that the investigation is not drawing Boeing resources from any other projects.

McNerney said that the batteries on 787s that were in service had been replaced at a slightly higher-than-expected rate. He said that the batteries are units designed to be replaced.

“Nothing we’ve learned has told us yet that we have made the wrong choice on the battery technology,” he said.

Boeing’s setback with the 787 comes at a time when other aspects of Boeing’s business are doing well. Boeing delivered 601 planes last year, the second-highest number in the history of commercial aviation, McNerney said.

He said that airlines are replacing older planes, seeking more fuel-efficient models in the face of high and unpredictable fuel prices.

Follow Kate Rice on Twitter @krtravelweekly.

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