Boeing said in addition to serving as a location for final assembly of 787s, the facility also will have the capability to support the testing and delivery of the aircraft.
“Establishing a second 787 assembly line in Charleston will expand our production capability to meet the market demand for this aircraft,” said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a statement. “This decision allows us to continue building on the synergies we have established in South Carolina with Boeing Charleston and Global Aeronautica.” Albaugh said the move would also improve Boeing’s competitiveness.
Boeing Charleston, formerly a part of Vought Aircraft Industries, already performs fabrication, assembly and systems installation for 787 aft fuselage sections. It is adjacent to Global Aeronautica, a Boeing-Alenia Aeronautica joint venture, which is responsible for joining and integrating 787 fuselage sections from other structural partners.
As well as the synergies available from being closer to those pre-assembly sites, many analysts believe that a major motivation behind Boeing’s decision was to access a non-unionised workforce, particularly after prolonged strike action by the International Association of Machinists (IAM) last year which halted production at Boeing’s Seattle facilities for seven weeks and contributed to delays in the 787 development program.
The IAM, which had been involved in negotiations with Boeing to keep a second 787 assembly line in Washington, expressed its disappointment in the decision. “Instead of investing in our shared future and a highly talented workforce in a region ideally suited for aerospace, Boeing has decided to double-down on its failed 787 strategy and place an ill-advised, billion dollar bet on a strategy that’s a proven loser,” it said in a statement.
Albaugh reinforced that the Puget Sound region will remain the headquarters and home of a number of key production sites for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Everett will continue to design and produce aircraft, including the 787, and there is tremendous opportunity for our current and future products here. We remain committed to Puget Sound.”
Until the second 787 assembly line is brought on line in North Charleston, Boeing will establish transitional surge capability at its Everett facilities “to ensure the successful introduction of the 787-9,” the company said.
“We’re taking prudent steps to protect the interests of our customers as we introduce the 787-9 and ramp up overall production to 10 twin-aisle 787 jets per month,” said Albaugh.