In an ocean of bad news revealed during the disclosure of the company’s 2019 results, Boeing has confirmed that it will indeed reduce production of the 787 Dreamliner. Currently 14 aircraft are produced per month, but that volume will be cut to 12 planes later this year and just 10 units next year “based on the current environment and near-term market outlook.”
The planemaker had previously signaled this intention, but admitted that the target of 12 units per month would be sufficient. However, the outlook for the advanced jet is more severe than expected in the face of the intensified trade war between the United States and China, from which Boeing expected many orders. The company hopes to resume the pace of 12 monthly aircraft starting in 2023.
The 787 is produced on two assembly lines, in Everett and also at the North Charleston plant in the state of South Carolina, each responsible for half of production. It is not known whether Boeing will slow down in both or give preference to one of them.
According to the company’s website, there are 546 units in its backlog: 346 787-9, 144 787-10 and 56 787-8, the smallest variant of the model. But the list includes customers like Jet Airways, which stopped flying in 2019 and whose return to service depends on the sale of its control to another group, which seems unlikely.
The biggest threat, however, is the Chinese market, which has consumed much of the Dreamliner production. Of the 109 planes ordered, only 12 have yet to be delivered, but it is in the absence of new orders that lies the drama of Boeing. The last Chinese orders were placed in 2017 and in a modest way – only 13 jets.
It has been almost three years without an order from China, which seems out of the question given the uncertainties created by President Donald Trump in his crusade against the impact of Chinese industry on the United States.
Despite these uncertainties, the 787 has been a positive exception for Boeing. In 2019, the model led deliveries and orders from the US manufacturer, affected by the grounding of the 737 Max. The manufacturer delivered 158 Dreamliner, or 42% of the company’s total commercial aircraft. Orders last year reached 110 units, or 74 net orders.
Emirates placed the largest order of 2019 with 30 units of the 787-9, but Korean Air and Lufthansa also expanded their backlog, with 20 planes each. Another good news was the Vietnamese airline Bamboo Airways, which expanded its order for Boeing 787-9 from 20 to 30 planes.