Update (2): Boeing rehires aircraft inspectors

By Bryan Corliss

May 18, 2021 © Leeham News — The Boeing Co. has quietly recalled at least some of as many as 900 quality control inspectors who were laid off in 2019 as part of a drive to adopt car-industry manufacturing processes in aerospace manufacturing.

The move comes after the union for the inspectors – Machinists District Lodge 751 – pushed the company to prove that getting rid of inspectors could be done without risking quality issues and would actually improve production times.

“Our union’s goal is to save Boeing from making decisions that could be detrimental to (its) future and ours,” union leaders said in its monthly AeroMechanic newsletter. “A second set of eyes is a critical component of building Boeing airplanes and necessary for the long-term success of the company.”

A union spokeswoman said she was unable to say precisely how many of the inspectors were initially laid off, and how many have been brought back since the recalls started. Boeing’s media relations team did not respond to a written list of questions on the topic.

Updated: Boeing provided a written statement that said, in part, that there has been “no reduction in quality staffing related to changes in our inspection approach,” despite reports in 2019 that a new approach to quality control would lead to far fewer human inspections, and inspectors.

Update 2, May 24: Boeing provided additional information today about the reported layoffs of verification inspectors, first reported by The Seattle Times in 2019.

Boeing acknowledged that a former Boeing executive told The Times then that up to 900 inspectors could be laid off that year. It was this 2019 report that formed the basis of LNA’s introductory paragraph.

However, in response to a specific question by LNA, today Boeing said there were no cuts in quality inspectors in 2019.

There were layoffs in 2020, following the eruption of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which occurred during the extended grounding of the 737 MAX. Boeing declined to specify the number.

“We don’t provide details about employment in specific teams,” a spokesman wrote in an email to LNA. “As we’ve said throughout the past year, due to the pandemic’s impact on commercial aviation, we reduced production rates for some of our commercial programs, and our factory employment is directly related to production work statement.”

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2024 will be key year for Boeing in Washington

This is the second in a series of articles examining how labor, Boeing and Washington state could move forward following the COVID pandemic. The first article is here.

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By Bryan Corliss

Analysis

Introduction

Nov. 30, 2020, © Leeham News — You might want to set yourself an Outlook calendar reminder for January 2024.

It’s going to be a pivotal year for Boeing, its home state and its workforce. By then, the company’s recovery from the current Covid-caused crisis should be underway, with the order book refilling.

The countdown should be on for the long-delayed roll-out of the reconceived NMA, at long last giving Boeing a real counter to the Airbus A321. And — barring a surge in 737 MAX orders after its return to service — Boeing could be close to making some tough decisions about the future of the 737 program, thinking hard about whether after 60 years it’s finally time to design and build a clean-sheet replacement.

Also by then, the 787 program will have fully consolidated into Charleston, and the last 747 will have departed the Paine Field flight line, leaving The World’s Largest Building (By Volume) half-empty.

Then, in January 2024, Boeing’s contract with its touch-labor union – IAM District 751 – will expire, after a 10-year extension that was part of the price Machinists paid to ensure the 777X would be assembled in Everett. For the first time since the summer of 2008, the two sides will sit down at a bargaining table with the union having the ability to call for a strike.

What happens between now and January 2024 will pretty much decide the future of Boeing in Washington state. If the players are clear-eyed and rational, we could see a return to the days when high-skilled workers built high-quality planes that created handsome profits for Boeing shareholders and family-wage jobs for Boeing workers.

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Pontifications: Why I’d fly the MAX; lessons learned and still to come

Nov. 23, 2020, © Leeham News: I’m okay with flying on board the Boeing 737 MAX.

Yes, it’s gone through the wringer in the 20 months since it was grounded.

Yes, Boeing and the US Federal Aviation Administration screwed up royally.

And yes, there’s solid reason to distrust the company and the agency, wondering if they got it right this time.

Which is why for me the tipping point is the involvement of Transport Canada and Europe’s EASA are the reasons to trust getting back on the MAX.

LNA addresses the safety in our new podcast feature, 10 Minutes About. The inaugural podcast, 10 Minutes About the Boeing 737 MAX recertification may be heard here.

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Boeing, unions need reset: analysis

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By the Leeham News Team

Analysis

Introduction

Nov. 16, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing is at a defining moment, says John Holden, the president of IAM 751. This is the labor union that assembles Boeing’s airplanes in Washington State.

The Seattle Times wrote that “Boeing must realign for better days“.

Neither said anything that hasn’t been said before, some of them repeatedly.

There is a new twist to it this time.  Boeing is seriously bleeding money.  It is making changes for survival and paying a horrible price as it loses talent that takes years to develop.  There are many losers here:  Boeing, Washington State, Snohomish, King and Pierce counties, Everett, Renton and all the communities in the Washington Aerospace heartland.  There are no winners.

But for all the points identified, few offer solutions. What should a realignment include?  What could it look like?

Over a series of articles, LNA will examine some possible solutions.

The first is Labor, starting with the IAM 751.

Summary
  • Long, tortured relationship.
  • Strong union state.
  • “Expensive labor.”
  • Is there a “value” premium?

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Gov. Inslee misses the point in his pique over Boeing 787 production decision

By Scott Hamilton

Analysis

Oct. 5, 2020, © Leeham News: The contrast in tones couldn’t be sharper.

With the announcement last Thursday by Boeing it will consolidate 787 production from Everett into Charleston, local political leaders were disappointed but understanding and even sympathetic.

Gov. Jay Inslee

Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers and Everett Mayor Cassie Franklin likened Boeing to a family member who was in crisis. Hard decisions by Boeing were made, but in a crisis, you must. Support your family. Understand the situation. Figure out how to make the best of it to move forward.

On the other hand, Gov. Jay Inslee vowed to review the state’s relationship with Boeing and tax breaks granted to the company. Inslee claimed understanding but his tone was hostile, defiant and angry.


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Retrospective-4, 11/1/09: 787 Line 2 Postmortem

DownloadOct. 1, 2020, (c) Leeham News: This is the fourth in a series of Retrospectives about Boeing’s decision to locate the second 787 Final Assembly Line in Charleston (SC).

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Retrospective-3, 10/20/09: Dueling Messages: Boeing vs IAM

DownloadOct. 1, 2020, (c) Leeham News: This is the third of a Retrospective look at the 2009 decision by Boeing to place the second 787 Final Assembly Line in Charleston (SC).
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Retrospective-2, 10/29/09: 787 Line 2 aftermath

DownloadRetrospective-2, Oct. 1, 2020, (c) Leeham News.
This is the second in a series of Retrospective looks at the 2009 decision by Boeing to locate 787 Line 2 in Charleston (SC).

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Retrospective-1, 10/28/09: Boeing to Charleston for 787 FAL #2

DownloadOct. 1, 2Oct. 1, 2020, (c) Leeham News: 10 years, 11 months and 27 days ago, Boeing announced it selected its production plant in Charleston (SC) for the site of its second 787 assembly line.
The decision came after an intense battle with its touch labor union, IAM 751, over concessions demanded by Boeing and offers made by the union.
Boeing told Washington State there were no incentives that could be offered to persuade Boeing to locate Line 2 in Everett (WA). The issue, Boeing said, was entirely about the union. However, it was later learned South Carolina state and local governments provided Boeing with nearly $1bn in tax breaks and other incentives to locate Line 2 there. State and local Washington officials felt flimflammed by Boeing officials.
Last month, Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington asked Boeing if there was anything the state could do to persuade Boeing do keep Line 1 in Everett.
The company is meeting today to decide whether to consolidate the two lines into one to save money because of the COVID-19 crisis. When CEO David Calhoun announced a study during the 2Q2020 earnings call July 29, it was considered a foregone conclusion that Charleston would be selected for the site.
LNA provided extensive coverage in 2009 about the decision. We’re publishing several articles in a Retrospective look about the decision then to locate Line 2 in Charleston.

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With 787 FAL closing and 747 production ending, what does Boeing do with massive space in Everett?

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By Scott Hamilton and Bryan Corliss

Introduction

Oct. 1, 2020, © Leeham News: Boeing is expected to announce as early as today that it will consolidate the 787 final assembly lines into one at its Charleston (SC) plant.

Footprint of Boeing Everett final assembly building. This map is somewhat outdated but a current one is not available. Source: Seattle Times.

Reuters reported last week the decision to consolidate production in Charleston was made. The Wall Street Journal Tuesday night also reported this decision, saying the decision could be announced this week.

The Everett (WA) line is expected to close as production of the 787 falls below seven a month. Boeing previously announced the rate will fall from a peak of 14/mo to 6/mo by 2022.

With the closure of the 747 line in Everett slated for 2022, this will open huge bays in Everett. Nearly half the world’s largest building by volume will be empty. Given lower production rates because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 777 lines will be woefully underutilized.

Overhead costs probably can’t be absorbed by the remaining low-rate production 767/KC-46A and 777 lines. Boeing warned in its 2Q2020 10Q SEC filing that the 787 and 777 lines face a forward loss depending on production rates of other lines.

With no New Midmarket Airplane (NMA) being contemplated to fill the empty bays, what can Boeing do to utilize these massive spaces and retain profitability of Everett?

A radical solution is moving the 737 line from Renton to Everett. This means Renton would close well before the 2033 date LNA predicts and selling off the property for commercial development.


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