Boeing is starting assembly this week of the first 737 to be built at an increased rate of 42 per month, or more than 500 a year – the highest production rate to date.
Early Wednesday, mechanics will begin to build the spars, the first step in building the wings, at the increased rate at Boeing’s Renton, Wash., factory. The plane will be delivered in the second quarter.
Production of the 737 is scheduled to rise again in 2017 at a rate of 47 per month, the company has said, as Boeing works to meet orders reflecting increased demand for commercial passenger jets.
Production could rise again in 2018 or 2019 to a rate of 52 a month, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal on Tuesday. Boeing is studying that scenario, the report said.
Spirit AeroSystems builds the 737 fuselage, pylons and thrust reversers and ships them to Boeing. It also builds part of the wing at its Tulsa facility.
Spirit has already boosted production to 42 a month to meet Boeing’s increased schedule.
“At Spirit our teams are working to meet our customer’s schedule of 42 airplanes per month,” Vic McMullen, Spirit vice president and general manager of operations. “At Spirit we are focused on continuing to meet the record demand for our products, delivering them on time and with the highest quality possible to our customer.”
Since 2010, Boeing has increased 737 production about 33 percent, from 31.5 per month to 42 a month.
Boeing has 3,680 unfilled orders for the 737 on its books, according to its website. That’s more than seven years of production at current rates.
“This rate increase once again reflects our commitment to put the world’s best-selling airplane into the hands of our customers as quickly as possible,” Beverly Wyse, vice president and general manager of Boeing’s 737 program, said in a statement. “Efficiency improvements in the factory, many of them developed by our employees, are a big part of why we are able to successfully increase the number of airplanes we build.”