San Antonio (TX), a potential assembly site for the 737 MAX, was hit yesterday with a 4.6 earthquake.
The city is also the location for 787 finishing work.
Readers will recall that on the second quarter earnings call, CEO Jim McNerney stunned Washington State interests when he said 737 MAX work is not guaranteed for Renton (WA), where the 737 has been assembled since shortly after the program was launched. (The 737 initially was assembled at Boeing Field and moved to Renton.)
KING 5 TV in Seattle reports that a state study concludes Renton is well positioned to retain MAX but other sites, including San Antonio, are under consideration.
We are hearing increasingly–but entirely without solid evidence or confirmation–that it is entirely possible a second 737 assembly site is becoming more likely, and that San Antonio is a leading candidate for the site.
The scenario that has been painted to us by two sources is that the second assembly site eventually supersedes the MAX. As the 737 NG winds down and ceases to exist around 2019, the Renton factory site is sold off by Boeing to commercial development, continuing a trend that began with the “Move to the Lake.” By this time, the scenario continues, the 787 surge line at Everett is gone (May 2014 is the current end-date target, but given the demand, delays and program challenges, it could stick around longer). Termination of the surge line opens space in Everett for the New Small Airplane, thus clearing the way for the closure of Renton and the creation of two lines for the NSA.
The scenario is but one of many that Boeing is considering and there is a strong opinion within Boeing that Renton should get the MAX. But McNerney is determined to de-risk Boeing from Puget Sound from (first) the unions and (second) natural disasters.
The prospect of establishing another “greenfield” site for another airplane program sends shivers through a lot of stakeholders, but Boeing’s San Antonio is unlike Charleston. San Antonio has experienced Boeing employees in place in contrast to Charleston. To be sure, many more would have to be hired and Texas has a thriving aerospace industry. Having lived in Dallas for nearly 12 years, we can tell you San Antonio is one of the nicer places in Texas.
We still think the MAX should be assembled in Renton, where only a small investment would be required and you have an experienced workforce second to none. But we can also make a case for San Antonio.
A decision is expected to be announced around the second quarter–right about the time contract negotiations begin with the lead union McNerney considers the most troublesome, IAM 751.
Does anyone thing there is not a connection?