Strong demand raises 777 production rate

Boeing said Monday it's again increasing the production rate for its 777 aircraft due to strong customer demand.

The Chicago company will boost output to 8.3 a month in the first quarter of 2013. In March it announced plans to increase production from five to seven airplanes a month starting in the middle of next year.

United Airlines first placed the 777 into service in 1995. There have been 907 deliveries of the aircraft, which comes in several versions, including a freighter. Several major commercial airlines use the long-range aircraft, and FedEx uses the cargo version.

Boeing said it has a backlog of more than 250 777s and that suppliers are prepared for its production increases. Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems is a major supplier for the 777.

The news of increased production comes despite an announcement from the aerospace giant last week that customers canceled orders for three 777s and one 787. The company declined to say who canceled the orders.

The new 787 has been plagued by delays for more than two years. In the latest problem for the plane, Boeing said earlier this month it was in the middle of a three-week hold on assembling pieces of the 787.

Flight tests stopped last month because of an electrical fire, and the first delivery officially slated for early next year is expected to be pushed back.

Continental Airlines was scheduled to be the first U.S. carrier with a 787, and planned to begin flights between Houston and Auckland, New Zealand, in November 2011. Those are now being pushed into 2012.

Continental will fly a planned route between Houston and Lagos, Nigeria, with a Boeing 777 instead of the 787. Those flights are set to begin in November 2011.