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Boeing to pay $580M for parts plant in S.C.

Boeing Co. will pay $580 million in cash for a plant that makes large sections of its 787 jetliner in an apparent effort to resolve supplier problems that have contributed to costly delays and hurt the company’s credibility.

The plant makes sections of the 787’s fuselage between its wings and tail that are made primarily from lightweight carbon composites. The next-generation aircraft that has been hampered by repeated delays due to production problems that have cost Boeing billions of dollars in anticipated expenses and penalties.

The airplane maker said Tuesday the acquisition of the North Charleston, S.C., plant from Vought Aircraft Industries will boost its capacity to develop and build large plane sections made from carbon composite parts.

After the transaction, Boeing said Vought will continue its work on many Boeing programs, including other components of the 787, as well as parts of the 737, 747, 767, 777, C-17 and V-22 through operations located elsewhere.

As part of the deal, expected to close in the third quarter, Vought will be released from obligations to repay money that had been advanced earlier by Boeing.

It remains unclear when Chicago-based Boeing will conduct the first test flight of the 787, previously scheduled for the second quarter of this year. Deliveries of the new jet were lagging nearly two years behind schedule before the latest 787 program delay was announced last month.

With the 787, Boeing has taken a new approach to building airplanes, relying on suppliers around the world to build huge sections of the plane that are later assembled at the company’s commercial aircraft plant near Seattle. Ill-fitting parts and other problems have hampered production.

Despite those problems, Boeing spokesman Jim Proulx said Tuesday the company has no plans to change its production strategy for the 787.

“We remain committed to the business model and the global strategy for the 787,” he said.

Shares of Boeing slid $1.10, or 2.7 percent, to $39.47 in midday trading.

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