The news wires and the Internet were alive Wednesday with hints that The Boeing Co. could soon announce a location for a second 787 Dreamliner assembly line – and it won’t be in the Puget Sound area.
All of the reports we’ve heard involve a fair amount of reading between the lines and extrapolation from what Boeing is saying officially.
Here’s how the logic goes:
Boeing is nearly two years behind with its 787 Dreamliner program. Its order book for the Dreamliner, despite a few defections, still is more than 850 aircraft.
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If Boeing is going to make up any ground in filling its orders, it will have to fairly quickly ramp up its assembly process. Only now is the first “production” 787 entering the far end of the assembly line in Everett behind the six test aircraft.
The notion that Boeing will be able to carry through with its original goal of just bolting together a Dreamliner in three days at its Everett plant from big preassembled sections is still a fantasy.
Boeing now says its major partners are performing better work on those subassemblies, but Boeing might find itself doing more work at the assembly plant than it had hoped. Translation: Don’t expect the parts to enter the back door on Monday and emerge as a whole airliner on Thursday morning.
Thus the need for a second assembly line.
Will it be in Everett? A longtime Boeing manager and King County executive candidate Fred Jarrett thinks it’s a foregone conclusion that Boeing will locate that assembly line elsewhere if only to insulate the assembly process from complete shutdowns caused by strikes. And Pat Shanahan, the guy Boeing brought in to rescue the 787 from its production problems, told blogger Jon Ostrower that the second assembly line decision could occur sooner rather than later. Everett isn’t the only candidate, he said.
Locating a secondary assembly line elsewhere would give Boeing even more leverage over its local unions and the state in order to extract more concessions and tax breaks.
The Machinists Union struck Boeing in the Puget Sound area last fall for nearly two months, shutting down all assembly work, including the 787. Don’t blame the union for all of the two-year delay on the 787. Boeing and its partners contributed a majority of that lost time without the union’s help.
Several possibilities for other sites emerged during the original horse race for the 787 assembly line. Several are still prospects including San Antonio, Texas; Kinston, N.C.; Charleston, S.C.; and Mobile, Ala.