Boeing Co. (IW 500/16) said it has ramped up production of its 777 long-haul jet to 8.3 airplanes per month, up 20% from the previous rate of seven planes per month.
The production rate for the 777, which is built at Boeing's Everett, Wash., facility, is the highest ever for a Boeing twin-aisle airplane, according to the company.
"With more than 300 777s in our backlog, the rate hike is necessary to make sure we get this wildly popular airplane into the hands of our customers as soon as possible," wrote Randy Tinseth, vice president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a blog post Tuesday.
Boeing said it has implemented a number of new technologies to achieve the production-rate increase, including flex-track drilling machines in the 777 body and wings area, and automated spray-painting equipment.
"The preparation the team has done for this historic rate increase has been comprehensive from floor to ceiling," said Scott Fancher, 777 vice president and general manager. "We've hired and trained hundreds of additional employees and the efforts of the team to get us to this point have been simply outstanding."
Early Tuesday morning, workers installed the first part -- the lower lobe of the aft fuselage -- of the first 777 to be built at the new rate.
The airplane, a 777 freighter, will be delivered to Korean Air in February 2013.
Some 1,049 777s are currently in service, according to Boeing, and 1,380 have been ordered from 63 customers around the globe.