Boeing Confirms Charleston Second 787 Line

Sidney Vianna

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This is huge.
Aviation Week said:
Boeing is officially confirming its North Charleston, S.C., facility as the location for a second final assembly site for the 787, marking the first time it has moved commercial jet assembly out of Washington State.

The move follows the breakdown of last-ditch negotiations with the International Association of Machinists (IAM) in Seattle over conditions that would have enabled the line to be placed alongside its existing 787-8 line at Everett, Wash.

In a statement, Boeing says the evaluation was “designed to find the final assembly location within the company that would best support the 787 business plan as the program increases production rates.” It adds the facility also “will have the capability to support the testing and delivery of the airplanes.”

The move is aimed at supporting the company’s planned ramp up to 10 787s by the end of 2013, and will see Charleston become the center for production of the stretched 787-9 derivative. Plans for the second line were first revealed by Boeing at this summer’s Paris Air Show, and preceded several preparatory phases including the lodging of planning applications for expansion of the existing site as well as the de-certification of the IAM at the Charleston site.

Negotiations with the IAM are believed to have foundered over Boeing’s call for a 10-year, no-strike agreement, a clause the company insisted on as a fall out over last year’s crippling industrial action over a variety of labor issues. State officials in both South Carolina and Washington have meanwhile fought to support the new site, with the former having evidently won out by passing a $170 million economic incentive package which includes grants, start-up aid and exemption from the state fuel tax for test flights and aircraft deliveries.

“Establishing a second 787 assembly line in Charleston will expand our production capability to meet the market demand for the airplane,” says Boeing Commercial president and CEO Jim Albaugh. “This decision allows us to continue building on the synergies we have established in South Carolina with Boeing Charleston and Global Aeronautica,” he adds, referring to the site which performs fabrication, assembly and systems installation for the 787 aft fuselage sections.

Boeing Charleston, acquired from Vought in July as part of efforts to get the troubled 787 program back on track, is adjacent to the Global Aeronautica facility. Boeing also acquired Vought’s 50% share in this site in March 2008 following earlier production problems in the facility that is responsible for joining and integrating 787 fuselage sections from other structural partners.

Boeing says that until the second 787 assembly line is brought on line, it will establish transitional surge capability at Everett, “to ensure the successful introduction of the 787-9, the first derivative model of the 787. When the second line in Charleston is up and operating, the surge capability in Everett will be phased out,” it adds.

Amongst the first to express the disappointment from Washington was democratic Senator Patty Murray who, in a statement, calls the move a “shortsighted decision.” Murray says, “We had an opportunity today to take a step toward workforce stability and a win for Boeing, our workers, and the state of Washington. I am disappointed that Boeing cut off negotiations and passed on a final chance to make this happen.”

Murray adds, “Washington state has fought for Boeing from day one. The dedication and quality of product Washington state provides is not something you can build overnight. The passion and history of grandparents passing knowledge, know-how and skills to the next generation is not something that can be reflected on balance sheets.”

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