Air India takes delivery of first South Carolina-made Boeing 787

By Harriet McLeod

NORTH CHARLESTON, South Carolina, Oct 5 (Reuters) -R epresentatives from Air India took delivery on Friday of thefirst Boeing Co 787 Dreamliner made in South Carolina andthe first manufactured outside Boeing Commercial Airplane'sheadquarters in Washington state.

The delivery marks another milestone in Boeing's efforts tobroaden its production base beyond Washington, where all of itsother jets have been built. The 787 is largely outsourced toother countries, with wings and other parts shipped in for finalassembly to Boeing facilities in Washington and now, SouthCarolina. Boeing's corporate headquarters are in Chicago.

"Airplane built, airplane completed, airplane flown and nowtoday, airplane delivered," said Jack Jones, chief executive ofBoeing South Carolina whose $750 million final assembly plant inNorth Charleston was started in fall 2009. Production began inthe summer of 2011. The first plane was completed in April.

Boeing South Carolina also makes and assembles the mid-bodyand aft-body fuselage sections for all 787s at the plant.

"Three years ago, nothing was here," Jones said. "Some ofthese employees - a year and half of experience. That'sunprecedented. It's also historic."

Today's delivery was the third 787 for Air India. It took delivery of two more last month, both madein Washington.

By March 2013, the state-owned airline will have taken eightof the 27 Dreamliners it ordered in 2005.

"We should have had all 27 aircraft by 2008," said Air Indiaboard member K.M. Unni, speaking at a delivery ceremony in NorthCharleston.

Boeing's new, lightweight, fuel-efficient passenger jet wasplagued by years of supply chain problems and production delays.

Delivery of Air India's completed 787s was further delayedthis summer by talks between Boeing and the Indian governmentover compensation for the production delays and by bureaucracy,said Dinesh Keskar, Boeing's vice president of sales andmarketing for Asia-Pacific and India.

"These airplanes were late," Keskar said. The decision toaccept compensation "had to go all the way to the cabinet of thecountry."

The 787 is a key component of the troubled airline'sturnaround strategy, officials said. The jets are now indomestic service and also fly to Dubai, and by mid-October, theairline will open 787 routes to Frankfurt, Paris and London,Unni said. Next year, Air India will open 787 routes to KualaLumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Osaka and Australia, he said.

By 2031, India will have the fourth-largest economy in theworld, Keskar said. "No place in the world, including China, hasa greater rate of growth," he said. Boeing forecasts that Indiawill need 1,450 airplanes in the next 20 years, Keskar said.

"Roughly 234 of those airplanes will be the 787, 777 type ofairplanes," Keskar said.

Boeing also forecasts that Asia is going to take 40 percentof the world's airplanes in the next 20 years, he said. Thecompany has delivered 28 Dreamliners as of Friday, Keskar said.It has orders of 824 more from 58 customers, he said.

(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Editing by Alwyn Scott and TimDobbyn)