As Boeing awaits responses to its Requests for Proposals from 15 sites around the US and possibly Japan, Washington State officials, company employees and other stakeholders fret that Boeing will choose someplace other than Everett (WA).
Everett has all the logical advantages: the 777 Classic is assembled here. There are vast, mature facilities here. There is an experienced workforce here. As we note in our previous post today, there are a lot of points to ponder when it comes to choosing a site.
But what about the airlines? Do they care where the airplane is assembled?
This isn’t entirely clear. Emirates Airlines and Qatar Airways said at the Dubai Air Show they want the airplane built at one location, in the US, not outsourced to a bunch of countries and industrial partners in the fashion of the Boeing 787–an industrial model that proved disastrous for Boeing and the customers.
But do they care whether the 777X is built at Everett, Boeing South Carolina or some other site? Emirates and Qatar didn’t say, at least publicly. Etihad Airlines, another launch customer for the 777X, hasn’t said anything publicly. The first customer for the X told us that what’s important to it is an accessible location for inspections–in other words, a location with good air service, which could be one-stop connecting service.
This would rule in any of the cities that have been mentioned publicly in Boeing’s RFP search. It would rule out a city like Moses Lake (WA), which has ambitions of becoming an aerospace cluster but which has no airline service. The closest major airport is Spokane (WA), a 90 minute drive. Sea-Tac International Airport is a three hour drive. Lufthansa seems unconcerned whether Everett or another site is the choice.
Lufthansa is also not a 787 customer, but officials are well aware of the issues and delays involved in the program. It seriously considered ordering the 787-10 but for route system operational requirements chose instead the Airbus A350-900. But for some 787 customers, assembly location does matter. We understand from our sources that some customers want their Dreamliners assembled in Everett, not Boeing South Carolina, where by most accounts slow production rates and quality control issues remain a challenge.
Retrospective to 2009
As we sort through the events surrounding the IAM 751, Boeing and the 777X, we went back and re-read some of the coverage from 2009 when Boeing put 787 Line 2 in Charleston. There are some similarities–notably Sen. Patty Murray’s involvement then and now–and a lot of differences. Here are links to our posts; be sure to click through to the links of newspaper coverage contained within our posts. Reading the stories linked have amazing relevance to recent events.
Boeing talks a sham: This story, in The Everett Herald, paints a much different picture than:
Back to today:
Stan Sorscher of SPEEA, the Boeing engineers’ union, has a guest column in The Huffington Post, taking Boeing to task (not a particular surprise) over the current site search and efforts to cut benefits with the IAM 751 “because they can.”
Danny Westneat, a columnist for The Seattle Times, wrote Sunday that perhaps Washington State should look beyond Boeing for aerospace. This isn’t new. We advocated this in October 2009 (just days before Boeing announced it would put the 787 Line 2 assembly in Charleston) at the Governor’s Aerospace Summit conference in Spokane (WA). Be sure to click on the link to the PPT presentation, too.