Special tour opens celebration of SC's first Dreamliner

Workers put the finishing touches on one of four jets currently in the final assembly area at Boeing. All four jets are expected to be completed by the end of the year. (Brian Troutman/WCIV)

By Brian

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV) -- A facility large enough to build a 787 Dreamliner is expected to be big. But, it's hard to picture such size until you have gotten a glimpse of what's typically inside such a facility.Friday morning provided such an opportunity for journalists from media organizations from across the globe as Boeing in North Charleston opened its doors.

Massive, epic, intimidating -- all adjectives overheard as journalists were on the phone with their newsrooms -- attempting to describe the manufacturing areas for early news shows or web updates.Yet, none of those terms really do justice to what can be seen behind the scenes at Boeing.

Friday's special media tour was the kickoff to a day-long celebration of the first 787 Dreamliner to roll off the assembly line at the facility in North Charleston. Before the start of the tour, Boeing VP Jack Jones took time to explain to those in attendance at the early-morning tour the significance of the aircraft set to be in the hands of the company's Air India customer in May or June.

Jones touted the jet's fuel efficiency, speed capability and flexibility in seating. He also said the aircraft's design is very appealing to the eye with an "interior designed to enhance the flight experience."

"Some of the features are things that we feel like, humidity, the size of the windows, like the audio systems, all very state of the art," Jones said.

The 787s being built in North Charleston can seat as many as 250 passengers and can travel as many as 8,200 miles on a single tank of gas.

"That's a significant range," Jones said. "That pretty much pairs up any city pair that airline would want to fly to."

Before beginning the tour, Jones said Boeing's progress in South Carolina is something to be recognized. He said the entire team at Boeing, from the employees on the assembly line to the leaders in the front offices, have played an important role in 787 rollout.

"We have 59 customers, and everyone knows this program was late," he said.

That's something the company is beating its chest about. Work in North Charleston was extremely behind schedule in the early days, most of the problems, according to Boeing management, came in the area of mid production.

Yet employees in the mid production area on Friday could be seen laughing with coworkers, smiling and singing while they worked.

Mid production manager Willy Geary said things changed in his department. He credited the change to a focus on fundamentals and keeping employees happy.

"You are not going to achieve rate if you treat your people unfairly or approach work in a non systematic manner. Rate achievement is the number one focus and everything else follows along that," he said.

Boeing broke ground on the North Charleston facility in 2009.

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