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Boeing moves past 787 Dreamliner grounding, speeds up production

May 10, 2013|By W.J. Hennigan
(Gail Hanusa / Boeing Co. )

After months of headaches brought on by its 787 Dreamliner jet, Boeing Co. is now back on track and even speeding the production rate of the new airliner.

The aerospace giant said it has increased the production rate of seven airplanes per month at its Everett, Wash., factory. The program is set to reach 10 per month by year-end.

It’s good news for the beleaguered 787 program. Around the world, all 787s had been grounded from Jan. 16 until late last month because of safety concerns with the plane's lithium-ion battery system.

FULL COVERAGE: Boeing's troubled Dreamliner

During that time, Boeing had not been allowed to deliver any new 787s but continued building them.

Before the grounding order, the company delivered 50 of the planes to eight airlines worldwide, including United Airlines, the only U.S. carrier that operates 787s.

The program has more than 800 unfilled orders with 58 customers worldwide.

Final assembly of the 787 is in Everett, but the bulk of the large components arrive from suppliers around the world already assembled. There are about 50 suppliers in California alone.

Boeing has had to redesign the 787’s battery system after two overheating incidents this year -- one of which resulted in a fire.

The planes that were already built had to be retrofitted with the new design, and some airlines have already begun 787 commercial flights. United said it plans to enter its planes into operation on May 31.

PHOTOS: Inside airlines' Boeing 787 Dreamliners

Boeing will not say how much redesigning, testing and retrofitting the battery system has cost the company. Rather, officials said the cost was absorbed into spending $705 million in research and development during the company’s first quarter.

There was a 2.5% downturn in revenue to $18.9 billion, which was affected by the three-month suspension of the 787. Despite this, Boeing said it was on track to deliver more than 60 of the planes during 2013, as it originally planned.

Boeing has also increased production of its 737 and 777 jets and plans on delivering as many as 645 planes this year, which would be a record.

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