Update, July 28, 6:45am PDT: Gates has expanded his original story with more about the developments through yesterday, plus IAM comments.
Update, 6:00pm PDT: Dominic Gates just sent this message concerning the Boeing statement below:
I just spoke with John Dern. (Dern is a corporate spokesman for Boeing in Chicago.)
Dern said: “I am not saying your report was inaccurate. This is not about your reporting. The statements were inaccurate.”
In other words, Boeing Chicago is disavowing the statements of its own senior PR executives here in Puget Sound.
Update, 510pm PDT: This story gets odder as the day goes on. This just came from Boeing:
The comments delivered this morning by Boeing Chairman, President and CEO Jim McNerney regarding the potential location of final assembly for the re-engined 737 stand as delivered. While Renton, Wash., logically would be our first location considered, no decision has been made, nor would one be made at this point in the program. The decision on where to build the airplane will be made in due course as we move through the process of launching the airplane and evaluating production requirements. The statements in the Seattle Times attributed to company spokespeople made after the company’s earnings call were neither accurate nor representative of the company’s or BCA’s position.
You have to read this carefully to fully understand what has been said here: “the statements” were inaccurate and not representative of the company’s or BCA’s position.
It’s very odd there is a public dispute between Boeing Chicago and BCA.
Update, 11:25am: Boeing Commercial Airplanes back-peddled from McNerney’s comments. Here is Dominic Gates’ story in the Seattle Times, just posted. BCA really steps back from McNerney.
Boeing CEO Jim McNerney threw Seattle a curve on the earnings call: he said the 737 Re-engine could be built somewhere other than at Renton, where the 737 has been built since inception.
His paraphrased comments:
We haven’t made the final decision about where we’re going to produce the RE airplane. After 42/mo, we do run into some challenges at Renton. We have other options and we will study them all as we think this through. We would study Charleston, Renton and compare with another site.
Renton is one of the great aerospace factories in the world. Until we have sorted out the milestones associated with the ramp-up, the degree to which we have to modify the airplane, major investments required, but until we sort that out we have to keep this open. Until we study it all, obviously we have to keep it open. There is significant investment required and until we figure it out we have to sort it out.
This will be a locally developing story today.
As you can see from McNerney’s comments, part of the site location will be driven by how much the airplane is modified. Aspire Aviation just posted this analysis about what the airplane may become.
That Boeing might locate the 737RE line somewhere other than Renton is stunning news. Boeing has said the New Small Airplane would be competed, but any additional expansion of 737 production beyond the announced plans to go to 42/mo by 2014 nonetheless was assumed to be for Renton because the 737-based P-8A line has the capacity to do 21 airplanes a month–for a total of 63 in Renton, include the P-8.
If Boeing is truly going to consider other locations for the 737RE, this will become a major plumb to compete for. Immediate possibilities are Charleston, of course, and San Antonio (TX), where Boeing has a growing presence. Cynically we could throw Mobile (AL) into the mix.
Washington’s Project Pegasus, established by Gov. Gregoire to compete for the NSA, will almost certainly shift focus to the prospect of the 737RE, supporting not only Renton but also other potential sites in the state.
A feeding frenzy could emerge rather quickly.