CHARLESTON, S.C. - Workers continued Thursday to build new 787s at Boeing's South Carolina assembly plant even though federal authorities have grounded planes now in service while onboard batteries are checked.
The Federal Aviation Administration grounded the jetliners the previous day following battery fires on two of the new planes flown by Japanese carriers.
Production continued on the new planes at the company's sprawling North Charleston assembly plant that employs about 6,000 workers, said Boeing spokeswoman Candy Eslinger. Boeing also builds the plane at its plant in Everett, Wash.
She said she could not comment further on the battery situation but referred to a statement the company had released earlier.
In that statement, Boeing CEO Jim McNerney vouched for the safety of the new fuel-efficient plane the company calls the Dreamliner. It is the first commercial aircraft to have a hull made of lightweight composite materials instead of aluminum.
"''We are confident the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity. We will be taking every necessary step in the coming days to assure our customers and the travelling public of the 787's safety and to return the airplanes to service," he said.
Four of the 50 planes in service were built in South Carolina and sold to Air India. The airline took delivery of the first South Carolina-built plane in October. There have been no reports of problems with the batteries on those planes but the Indian government ordered Air India to ground its entire fleet of six Boeing 787s.
The FAA is investigating the lithium batteries on the planes that can leak corrosive fluid and start fires.
The North Charleston assembly plant has a goal of producing three 787s a month by the end of this year.
The first aircraft built at Boeing's $750 million assembly plant came off the assembly line last April.
When it opened in the summer of 2011, the plant represented the largest single industrial investment in South Carolina history.