Is 767 production ramp-up a precursor to new orders?

FedEx 767 photo: Alex KwantenBoeing increased 767 production from one per month to 1.5 per month (18 per year) in October 2014, and previously announced plans for an increase to two per month (24 per year) early in 2016. The Seattle Times reported on Wednesday that Boeing has announced internally that the production rate will be raised further, to 2.5 per month (30 per year), in the fourth quarter of 2017. The production rate ramp-up has fueled speculation that new orders may soon be announced. There are two sources of 767 demand – 767-300Fs, mainly for use by express operators, and KC-46 (767-2C) military tanker/transports. FedEx made news in July when it placed a firm order for 50 of the freighters for delivery from mid-2017 through mid-2023, plus options for 50 more [FATs 002486-2585]. The 767-300F backlog currently stands at 79 units, all for FedEx; the tanker backlog is roughly 180 units through 2027 (subject to future US government authorizations). UPS and DHL, both of which previously have taken delivery of significant quantities of 767s from Boeing, are good prospects for future orders, as is rapidly expanding SF Express. Although there have been some challenges for Boeing on the KC-46 program, Boeing’s contract calls for delivery of the first 18 units by August 2017, and the company is pursuing tanker sales opportunities outside the US. Cargo Facts predicts that FedEx will take delivery of about ten 767Fs per year going forward, and the US Air Force will take about 15 per year. On that basis the elevated 767 production rate in 2017 leaves only five open slots per year, a smaller quantity than the ramp-up suggests at first glance.

Photo: Alex Kwanten
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