By Dan Catchpole
EVERETT — Boeing is ramping up work on its 767 assembly line in Everett from the current 1.5 airplanes a month to 2.5 a month by the end of 2017.
Demand has picked up for the twin-aisle airplane thanks to two customers — shipper FedEx and the U.S. Air Force.
In July, FedEx placed the biggest single order for 767s in the program’s history, ordering 50 freighters. Also, Boeing expects to build 179 KC-46 aerial refueling tankers based on the 767 for the Air Force.
That gives the program a “healthy backlog extending midway into the next decade,” Boeing said in an announcement sent to employees Wednesday morning.
The rate increase will happen in the fourth quarter of 2017, the announcement said.
Boeing already plans to increase the rate to 2 a month in 2016.
“This is exciting news for the program and a testament to how the reliable and versatile [the] 767 has evolved to continue to meet changing market needs,” the 767 program’s general manager Brad Zaback said in the announcement. “Today’s 767 Freighters are the best they’ve ever been.”
The company continues “to invest in the production line and the airplane to improve its capability,” he said.
The number of workers on the program will likely increase slightly as the 2017 rate increase approaches, he said.
In addition to its 50 firm orders placed in July, FedEx also has options for another 50 767 freighters.
FedEx now accounts for the program’s entire non-military backlog. In all, it has 79 unfilled 767 orders, according to Boeing’s website.
Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @dcatchpole.