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Boeing exec: 787 long-term build rate on track

By Bill Rigby

SEATTLE (Reuters) - Boeing Co will build 10 787 Dreamliners per month by the end of 2013, the head of the plane-maker's commercial airplanes division said on Friday, shrugging off industry concerns that a glitch in the fuselage will put the goal out of reach.

"It shouldn't," Jim Albaugh said on the sidelines of an event marking the 1,000th delivery of Boeing's widebody 777. Dubai-based Emirates Airline will receive the plane this month.

Last month, the world's second-largest commercial plane-maker after EADS unit Airbus, reported signs of "delamination" on the rear fuselage of some 787s. Delamination occurs when repeated stress causes laminated composite materials to separate.

Boeing has said the problem would affect the first 55 787s that were assembled but that the issue is now contained and will not be repeated. The company says the repair will take 10 to 14 days per plane, but will be done concurrently with other work.

"It's going to have a short-term impact on production and deliveries, but we think for the year we'll be in good shape," Albaugh said.

The light-weight, carbon-composite Dreamliner is popular among airline customers, which have ordered about 870. The plane, which entered commercial service last year, is about three years behind its original schedule.

The company said it increased the 787 production rate to 3.5 per month from 2.5 on Thursday. Boeing has delivered only five 787s so far, all to its launch customer All Nippon Airways. The company delivered no 787s in February.

Last week, Boeing swapped the heads of its 787 Dreamliner and 777 programs, in hopes that the long-time 777 leader Larry Loftis can keep the Dreamliner production rate on track.

Boeing is raising production rates on all of its commercial airplane programs to meet increased demand.

The 777 production rate went up from five to seven per month in 2011 and is headed to 8.3 in the first quarter of 2013. Boeing, meanwhile, intends to update the popular 777 but has not disclosed specific plans.

Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive of Emirates Airline & Group, said at the Boeing celebration that he would be "very interested" in the next version of 777.

When asked when the new version of the 777 would be in service, Albaugh said: "We're talking late in the decade."

According to Boeing's website on Friday, Emirates has taken delivery of 53 777s and has another 86 on order. Boeing has 373 unfilled orders for 777s on its books.

(Reporting By Bill Rigby in Seattle and Kyle Peterson in Chicago. Editing by Gunna Dickson)

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