Boeing 787-10 too big for Puget Sound

Jul 31, 2014, 7:12 AM | Updated: 8:32 am
Boeing said final assembly of its 787-10 plane, a planned larger version of its “Dreamliner&#...
Boeing said final assembly of its 787-10 plane, a planned larger version of its "Dreamliner" aircraft, will take place in South Carolina. The 787-10 is still being designed. (AP Photo/file)
(AP Photo/file)

The Dreamliner, Boeing’s signature new airplane, has become too big for the Puget Sound, literally. The third version of the plane is so big it has to be built in South Carolina exclusively.

Boeing confirmed Wednesday what most aviation insiders had been expecting. The company will build the 787-10 entirely at the factory in North Charleston. This marks the first time a Boeing plane will be made exclusively in a non-union shop.

Why?

The 787-10 is about 18 feet longer than the 787-9, which is the second version of the plane. Right now, the mid-fuselage pieces are made in South Carolina and flown to Everett inside the modified 747 called the Dreamlifter.

Boeing’s Doug Alder said the 787-10 pieces won’t fit inside, and other options, like shipping by rail, don’t make sense.

Right now, Everett produces seven Dreamliners a month this way. South Carolina produces three. Alder said making the 787-10 exclusively in South Carolina will help spread out the work on the 787 program.

“This will allow to basically balance our production across both North Charleston and Everett,” he said. “By the end of the decade, both factories will be producing seven of our airplanes per month.”

Everett will continue to build the 787-8 and 787-9 so there is plenty of work to go around.

“This decision has absolutely no job impact at either facility,” Alder said. “Employment levels will stay exactly where they are today.”

But Boeing’s Machinists’ union is not happy. Jon Holden is the new president of Local 751.

“We’re not surprised by the decision, but we certainly are disappointed to see this be the decision Boeing made,” he said. “Our members have proven that they are the best workforce that can deliver the quality, the productivity and the delivery expectations on time.”

The union still believes it can build better airplanes than South Carolina, but Boeing’s Alder said the North Charleston plant has come a long way.

“There’s really no difference in quality or dispatch or reliability between airplanes that are made in North Charleston and airplanes made in Everett,” he said.

Boeing said the South Carolina operation has come a long way from earlier this year when it had to offer bonuses to workers for getting caught up on behind-schedule work.

There are currently more than a thousand Dreamliners on order. So far, only 132 of them are for the stretched 787-10.

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Boeing 787-10 too big for Puget Sound