Boeing 777X Aircraft to be Built in Multiple LocalesBy: Brian Powell - October 31, 2013
Since its inception in the 1910’s, Boeing airplanes have been designed, engineered, and constructed in the Puget Sound area of Washington. Over the years, Boeing has established factories in several other locations in order to produce more parts, but the design, engineering, and overall construction has always been conducted at the Seattle-area warehouse. However, times are a-changin’.
In an internal memo to its employees, Boeing stated that “It has been decided that much of the detailed design will be carried out by Boeing engineering teams in Charleston (South Carolina), Huntsville (Alabama), Long Beach (California), Philadelphia and St. Louis.” Boeing’s Design Center in Moscow, Russia, will also be involved. Boeing continued the memo by asserting, “However, at this time, no decisions have been made about 777X design or build in Puget Sound.”
The move to other locations serves as a severe blow to the state of Washington. The governor of Washington, Jay Inslee, called Boeing’s decision “disappointing” and promised to “compete boldly and aggressively to win this work.” The effort of Washington’s governor will most likely not impact the decision of Boeing, though, seeing as their main beef centers around the SPEEA – the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.
After bitter negotiations concerning prices and wages with the SPEEA last fall, Boeing declared that it would seek to move its services elsewhere if the engineers’ union forced an even more expensive contract.
Despite the fact that Boeing has announced that it will be producing parts of the plane elsewhere, Ray Goforth, executive director of the SPEEA, stated that “Boeing just doesn’t have the capacity anywhere else, frankly,” due to the technological innovations that are needed and only located in the Puget Sound operations: “I think there’s no doubt Puget Sound will play the key integrating role,” Goforth said.
According to the Seattle Times, the decision to move some of the construction processes to other plants also derives from massive Pentagon budget cuts, leading to layoffs and a surplus of engineers in Huntsville, Al, Philadelphia, Pa, and Southern California.
When constructing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Boeing also decided to outsource some of the key parts to the plane. In this instance, the decision was not wise as the plane was delayed due to being plagued by many issues, such as the battery overheating. This time, though, Boeing says that it has learned its lessons from the 787 and that the new design of the 777X “will allow for an efficient use of resources and enable Boeing to resolve design issues effectively the first time.”
The newest version of the 777 will feature the largest engines ever from GE and new composite wings that will create much better fuel efficiency – the earliest model of the 777X, the 777-9X, will be able to fly 400+ passengers over 8,000 nautical miles while consuming 20% less fuel than the current version of the 777. The 400 person carrying-capacity is about 50 passengers more than Boeing’s largest plane can currently carry.
Expectations for the new 777X are high based on early consumer interest. While Boeing lost a huge deal with Japan Airlines to Airbus earlier this year, it is currently in talks with four airliners to close a deal worth approximately $87 billion dollars. The deal is being structured around the Dubai Airshow and includes the purchase of 255 planes – 100-150 for Emirates, 50 for Qatar Airways, and 30 for Etihad Airways.
If the deal is completed, it will be Boeing’s largest ever sale for a new-model plane.
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