Boeing to build 777X wing and tail parts in St. Louis
Boeing said Monday it will build major composite parts of the wing and tail of the forthcoming 777X jet in St. Louis, Mo., generating about 700 jobs there at peak production.
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
Boeing said Monday it will build major composite parts of the wing and tail of the forthcoming 777X jet in St. Louis, generating about 700 jobs there at peak production.
On the current 777 model, most of that work is done by outside suppliers and none is done in Washington state.
Design of the 777X parts that are to be built in St. Louis will be spread throughout Boeing at engineering centers around the U.S. and Australia.
St. Louis will build the pieces of the 777X wing’s fixed leading edge, the panels for that leading edge, the movable trailing edge and the jet’s innovative folding wingtip. It will also build the movable parts of the 777X tail: the rudder and elevators.
Outside suppliers build the wing edges on the current 777; the tail parts are built at a Boeing facility in Australia.
Boeing spokesman Wilson Chow said the new arrangement is “bringing some work back inside Boeing on the 777X program.”
He said much of the work will be done by Machinist union members in St. Louis, workers who have previously assembled the F/A-18 and F-15 jet fighters.
St. Louis will begin producing parts for the 777X program in 2017, he said. The news is a much-needed boost for the St. Louis facility, which faces the prospect of its two aging fighter-jet programs shutting down by then.
Under an agreement with the Puget Sound-region Machinists union District 751 and the state of Washington, the main part of the 777X wing, known as the wing box, will be fabricated in Everett, in a building now under construction. The wing — including its fixed and trailing edges — will be assembled in the main factory there.
Final assembly of the airplane will also be done in Everett.
That allocation of 777X work to the Puget Sound region was spelled out in an International Association of Machinists (IAM) contract extension that included major pension concessions and was narrowly passed by union members here in January.
However, the contract specifically allows Boeing to “subcontract or outsource certain 777X wing fabrication and assembly work packages, in whole or part, in order to create capacity for other 777X work packages in the Puget Sound facilities, and/or to efficiently utilize those facilities.”
District 751 President Jon Holden expressed disappointment that fabrication of the 777X’s new folding wingtips will go to St. Louis.
“We had pushed for the 777X wing-tip work package to be placed here in Puget Sound because we have the skilled workers, composite center and everything necessary to be successful on this work package,” Holden said in a statement.
But he added that giving the work to Machinists in St. Louis “is positive for members there who are facing deep cuts in defense contracts and the ending of long-standing assembly lines on the only products they build.”
As for engineering work on 777X, the vast majority of Boeing’s commercial-airliner design work has until recently been done in Washington.
However, last year Boeing announced a plan to disperse substantial parts of its commercial-jet engineering to newly established design centers at other locations, including Boeing sites that have previously focused on defense work such as St. Louis.
Since spring 2013, a series of engineering work packages have been sent out of this region.
Chow said detailed design of the 777X wing and tail parts “will be carried out by Boeing engineering teams in the Puget Sound, Charleston, Huntsville, Long Beach, Philadelphia, Melbourne, Australia and St. Louis.”
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon issued a news release enumerating St. Louis’ cumulative gains from Boeing’s dispersal of engineering and now fabrication work.
“With today’s announcement of new 777X jobs, over the past eighteen months Boeing has announced plans to bring up to 2,000 new jobs to Missouri,” the release stated.
The other 1,300 jobs gained in St. Louis — all moved from Puget Sound — include 400 at an information technology center; 400 research and technology jobs; and an additional 500 defense engineering jobs for service and support of the Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor aircraft.
Boeing is now eligible for tax incentives from the state of Missouri. In December 2013, after Boeing opened up a state-vs-state competition to build the 777X, Missouri’s legislature passed a tax-incentive package offering up to $150 million per year for 10 years to aerospace companies creating at least 2,000 jobs within a decade.
Nixon said in a statement that “the 777X jobs announced today and this long-term commitment to St. Louis by Boeing is a direct result of the bipartisan legislation passed during last year’s special session.”
Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or firstname.lastname@example.org