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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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