Boeing will be exploring “all options” for production site locations for the new 777X, not only Seattle, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner told a gathering of reporters in Dubai on Saturday. His statement followed the rejection by company machinists of a contract extension proposal, which featured a Boeing commitment to build the airplane and its carbon-fiber wing in the Puget Sound region of Washington state. Conner insisted that Boeing had offered a fair proposal and that the company “has no plans” to return to the bargaining table.
Meanwhile, Conner denied that any desire to accelerate the timing of entry into service influenced what appeared as urgency to reach a deal. “Going into this vote [we were] not being driven by a need to accelerate the airplane,” said Conner. “The timing of this airplane hasn’t changed. The reason we were looking to move forward with the negotiations was because we’ve got to put bricks and mortar in place. So we have to make some [long-term] decisions on where we’re going. It’s a pretty long cycle because, particularly with the wing, it’s not something we’ve done before in the Puget Sound region or anywhere else, except for over in Japan [at Mitsubishi Heavy Industries].”
In fact, Conner wouldn’t discount suggestions that 777X wing production could go to Japan, alongside that of the 787’s wing. Instead, he called it “a good thought.
“We’re going to look very broadly,” he said, adding that the list of possibilities still includes the Puget Sound region. The considerations in the U.S., of course, include tax incentives offered by various states, said Conner. Abroad, they involve primarily manufacturing capacity and capability.
Whatever the outcome of the search for manufacturing sites, Conner pledged that the plan to gain certification by the end of the decade won’t change and that its potential customers in the Middle East haven’t expressed any concern about Boeing’s union problems. “What’s happened with the IAM [International Association of Machinists] is not going to impact anything we do with respect to our customers,” he said. “We are going to execute our plan, whether it’s built in the Puget Sound or anywhere else.”