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May 1, 2012

Boeing’s First South Carolina-Built 787 Dreamliner Emerges From Factory

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The first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner built at the airframer's new North Charleston, South Carolina, assembly facility. (Photo by Boeing)

An Air India-bound Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner rolled off of the airframer’s controversial South Carolina, assembly line on Friday to a celebration of the first aircraft completed at the new facility.

About 7,000 employees and guests were on hand for the event, which was also attended by South Carolina Governor Haley Barbour Nikki Haley and Boeing President and CEO Jim Albaugh.

“This is a proud moment for Boeing as we roll out an airplane from our third final assembly site,” said Albaugh. “Today I welcome the South Carolina team into a small and elite fraternity – a fraternity of workers who have built one of the most complex machines in the world – a commercial airplane.”

Boeing company announced in 2009 that it would construct a second 787 assembly line without union workers in South Carolina, a right-to-work state. The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Boeing in April 2011 in an effort stop their South Carolina construction, charging that the company was building the new line without union workers as retaliation for previous strikes by unionized workers in Washington. The NLRB dropped the complaint in December 2011 after Boeing reached a new contract deal with its machinists union that will retain assembly of the new 737 MAX in the state of Washington.

The North Charleston, SC, final assembly plant was completed in June 2011 and immediately began production of aircraft. It is expected to build three 787s a month when it gets to full speed, augmenting the seven-a-month produced by the main assembly line in Everett, Wash.

Boeing says the first aircraft will soon begin preliminary testing before taxi and flight tests, leading up to an on-time delivery to Air India in mid-2012.

“We’ll celebrate today, and tomorrow we begin the process of getting the airplane ready for delivery to our Air India customer,” said Jack Jones, vice president and general manager of Boeing South Carolina. “What this team continues to achieve is remarkable, and is the result of the team’s energy and dedication, as well as the great partnerships with the Boeing enterprise, Commercial Airplanes, the 787 Dreamliner program, our suppliers, local community and the state of South Carolina. It’s the outstanding support we’ve received from each one of these groups that has made this day possible.”

While substantially smaller than Boeing’s gargantuan Everett, Wash., facillity, the South Carolina final assembly building and delivery center cover a total area of 1.2 million square feet, or 10 1/2 football fields. The solar cells covering the assembly building’s roof produce more power than any other facility in the southeast, and it ranks as the sixth largest in the United States.

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