The decision where to site the Boeing 777X Final Assembly Line–Everett (WA), where the current 777 is built, or Charleston (SC), where Boeing is rapidly acquiring land and shifting work from Washington–will boil down to tactical or strategic considerations, says the chairman of a suppliers trade group.
It’s 50/50 whether Washington will be selected, says J. C. Hall, chairman of the Pacific Northwest Aerospace Alliance. PNAA represents small- to medium suppliers in the Pacific Northwest, with concentration in Puget Sound around the Boeing plants in Everett and Renton.
We spoke with Hall today, with plans to post the interview tomorrow. But today The Wall Street Journal posted a story about this topic, so we’re advancing the posting. Jon Ostrower wrote:
Boeing is now evaluating using the South Carolina plant for both final assembly of the 777X and to build the jet’s new carbon-fiber composite wings, according to two industry officials briefed on Boeing’s development of the 777X. “South Carolina looks more and more promising.”
The South Carolina plant has had some hitches. Boeing initially planned to be building three 787s a month by the end of this year, but the new site wasn’t prepared to make that jump and the company now expects to build two to three 787s a month there by year-end. The Everett plant will build eight 787 a month by year’s end, relying further on its twin assembly lines. Boeing announced Wednesday it would accelerate total 787 production to 12 a month in 2016 and 14 a month before the end of the decade.
We’ve previously written that our market intelligence tells us Boeing Commercial Airplanes wants to build the 777X in Everett but that Boeing Chicago (i.e, headquarters) seems to favor Charleston.[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJ5MotPlUu4&w=420&h=315]
The production problems in SC will not last forever. If the wings for the B-777X are built in SC, then it only makes good business sense to built the rest of the airplane there and avoid the huge expense of shipping wing sections to WA.
But if the wings are built in Japan, which I think will happen, then WA makes more sense to build the B-777X.
But if Boeing decides to have two B-777X FALs, then one in each state is better. For Boeing to do that, they will need 500+ B-777X orders. I don’t know if they can get that many.
There is speculation that the autoclave in Charleston can only accommodate 12/month for the 787. They have announced 14/month. If this means they will need to build another oven, and assuming one oven can have two purposes, it may make sense to have 777x wings built there to defray the cost over tow programs.
I assume 777x rails cannot be shipped via rail to PAE. If that is the case then I only see 777x wings be built in Charleston if the FAL is there as well.
The wings could be shipped to Seattle by sea. However, as you say, the FAL would very likely end up in Charleston as well if the wing is built there; something that I, in fact, pointed out back in April.
The longest wing section would be about 90′ long (each main section would have the spars, the outboard folding sections would not), the folding outboard sections need not be attached for shipment by rail. Rail between SC and WA would be much faster and cheaper for each wing set (about 3 special flatbed rail cars per wing set) than by ship. A ship would take about two weeks through the Panama Canal. Rail would be about 3-4 days.
All of this is assuming the FAL is in WA.
Of course we are not considering two additional B-744LCF built just for the B-777X wings.
If they put the 777 FAL in Charleston and they have problems, who will Chicago blame the issues on then?
And I have nothing against Charleston, its a learning curve and they have that under their belts in Everett and the employees in Charleston simply do not have that wealth of experience. Its not a slap at Charleston, it is at Chicago. Given my choice I would elect for the union free workplace as it has always been a lot more pleasant (but I have also seen unions do what they are doing in Everett and make a project succeed.) I can separate out the two aspects and I know where I would assemble the 777.
Obviously Everett gets it, Chicago is literally living in ivory towers where they are held accountable for their bad decisions.
Hopefully the split is wings for Charleston at least (not Japan) and the FAL in Everett where it should be.
Boeing could do just that 50/50 like the 787 both coming from Everett and North Charlestone. Except for the problem of transporting the larger 777X wing. If they can fit the 777X wing parts in the 747 Dreamlifter, such a configuration will give the 777X production system more force majeur proof. Puget Sound should better lower itself from its high horse.