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Can Boeing Soar on Stepped-Up 787 Role?

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. -- The aerospace industry may come to view the second week of June as a turning point for Boeing (BA - Get Report), when the aircraft maker got its 787 Dreamliner back on track.

If that is the case, the change will largely reflect improvements Boeing has made at its North Charleston complex, where two plants operated by suppliers produce 787 fuselage sections with parts shipped from around the world. At both plants, Boeing has stepped in to assure reliability.

The story of Boeing's 787 delays has been told many times. The world, hungry for aircraft, eagerly awaits this model, which is 20% more fuel efficient than the comparably sized Boeing 767. But a series of embarrassing postponements have pushed back delivery of the first 787 from mid-2008 to the third quarter of 2009.

On Tuesday, Boeing permitted a dozen reporters from around the country to tour the three-year-old North Charleston complex for the first time. The tour indicated, in the words of Joy Romero, vice president of the 787 program at Vought Aircraft Industries, that "Boeing is saying 'Look, yes, we had some problems, and we're getting over those problems.'"

Boeing Steps Up Presence, Production

On Wednesday, Boeing said it had completed a deal to acquire 50% of the joint venture that operates one of the North Charleston plants. On Thursday, Boeing said it had turned on the electrical power in the first 787 Dreamliner -- more than a year behind schedule, but nevertheless a key milestone signaling the start of critical systems testing that can be conducted only when the airplane has power.
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