The Boeing Co.’s Mesa helicopter factory delivered 83 Apache Longbow attack helicopters to the U.S. Army and international customers in 2004, an increase of nine over the previous year, the company said Wednesday.
The manufacturing complex at McDowell and Higley roads produced more than 54,000 electrical subassemblies for a wide range of Boeing civilian and military aircraft including the 787 (formerly 7E7) Dreamliner, Boeing’s next-generation commercial aircraft.
The report on 2004 activity was released Wednesday along with the announcement of the aerospace giant’s fourth-quarter earnings, which plunged 84 percent because charges for ending production of its 717 jet in California and the loss of an aerial tanker contract with the Pentagon.
Still, the results exceeded Wall Street expectations, largely because of a strong showing by the company’s defense business, which includes the Apache. Also the company predicted future improvement in its commercial airplane business. Boeing shares rose $1.19, or 2.3 percent, to close at $52.23 Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.
Mesa site manager Ed Koopman called 2004 an "outstanding" year for the Mesa operations as the company introduced new products, including the wiring assemblies for an avionics modernization of the C-130 military cargo plane and its first electrical system for a Boeing satellite.
"Our growing product base and our skilled workforce continue to deliver as promised on these important defense and commercial programs that impact our daily lives," he said.
Part of the increase in Apache Longbow production was because of more deliveries to international customers, the company said. Also Boeing stepped up Apache production for the Pentagon, delivering five more to the U.S. Army than in 2003, as part of a planned acceleration of Apache production.
Among the components the Mesa plant is making for the 787 are electrical subassemblies and lightweight composite structures to strengthen the forward and aft sections of the fuselage.
Also a small team of engineers at Boeing’s rotorcraft centers in Philadelphia and Mesa are working on structural testing of materials for the 787.
The new jetliner is expected to be far more fuel efficient than current commercial aircraft in part because it uses more lightweight composite materials.
In tandem with the manufacturing step up, the Mesa plant increased its employment by 9 percent during the year to bring total jobs to 4,900 at the end of the year.
Chief executive Harry Stonecipher said the improved outlook for commercial aircraft is based on increasing demand for the 737 and 777 as well as interest in the 787 — which has won 186 orders to date.
‘‘Oil prices remain very high, but we are seeing increasing interest from many airlines to order new efficient airplanes to meet their needs for capacity growth and also improve the efficiency of using the oil that’s becoming so expensive,’’ he said.
The company said it expects to deliver about 320 commercial aircraft this year and between 375 and 385 next year. That compares with 285 deliveries last year.
Net earnings for the October-through-December period were $186 million, or 23 cents per share, down from $1.13 billion, or $1.40 per share, a year earlier.
Analysts surveyed by First Call had estimated earnings at 5 cents per share.
Revenue increased 1 percent to $13.3 billion from $13.2 billion.