| EVERETT, Wa.
EVERETT, Wa. Aug 13 - Boeing executives
and state political leaders took sledgehammers to a 1960s office
block on Wednesday to help clear the way for a factory that will
make composite wings for the company's newest jet, the 777X.
The 1.3-million-square-foot composite wing center at the
site of Boeing's massive aircraft assembly operation should
cement the company's growth in Washington state for decades to
come, and reflects Boeing's desire to bring more of its
operations under its own roof. The previous generation of
composite wings, used on Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, are made by
Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd in Nagoya, Japan.
"We're going to be a here for a long, long time," Boeing
Commercial Airplanes Chief Executive Ray Conner told a crowd of
about 100 that included Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Governor Jay
Inslee, senior Boeing executives, employees and officials from
the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace
Workers, District 751.
The decision to build the wing in the U.S. marks a major
shift in Boeing's strategy after it outsourced wings and other
major pieces of its carbon-composite 787 to suppliers around the
world, a process that led to production problems and made the
aircraft three years late in reaching customers.
Boeing's decision should also ensure decades of stability
and growth for hundreds of suppliers located near the factory
and across the state, who will provide crucial 777X components.
"We're bringing this wing home from where it is built for
the 787. It is a hometown wing," Gov. Inslee said.
The new wing factory will house three of the world's largest
autoclaves used for curing composite material. Each autoclave is
large enough to hold two 737 fuselages, Boeing said.
The building will be occupied starting in 2016. The first
777X is due to be delivered in 2020. The new jet, which carries
a list price of up to $389 million and has garnered 286 orders,
is expected to be 12 percent more fuel efficient than the
current 777, which was introduced in 1995 and has become one of
Boeing's most popular and reliable wide-body planes.
Conner thanked the machinists' union for approving an
eight-year extension to their labor contract earlier this year.
The agreement essentially traded union members' defined-benefit
pension plan for the guarantee of future work on the 777X.
Boeing said the extension was necessary to ensure the wing
factory and the 777X assembly plant would be placed in
Washington, and not in another state. But the vote bitterly
divided union members.
IAM District 751 Local C President Ron Coen, who was among
the dignitaries taking a swing at the wall, told the crowd he
didn't agree with the vote.
"But that's the past," he said. "We're here today about the
future, about promises made and kept by the Boeing Company."
(Reporting by Alwyn Scott; Editing by Chris Reese)