Boeing has issued requests for proposals to more than a dozen potential sites for assembly, parts fabrication, paint, delivery and wing production of the new 777X widebody, the company confirmed to AIN last week. The release of the RFPs comes barely more than a week after Boeing’s machinists union voted down a proposed contract extension described as critical to locating the work in the Puget Sound region of Washington state. Boeing said it has asked for answers to the proposals by the middle of this month and that it will decide on site selection or selections early next year.
During a “roundtable” briefing on the eve of the Dubai Airshow, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Ray Conner told reporters the company would explore “all options” for production site locations following the machinists’ rejection of what he characterized as a fair proposal. He also insisted 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 was not being driven by a need to accelerate this 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 brick and mortar in place…So we have to make some decisions on where we’re going to be long term. 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, calling it “a good thought.”
“We’re going to look 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 the 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 customers haven’t expressed any concern about Boeing’s union problems. “What’s happened with the IAM is not going to impact anything we do with respect to our customers,” he said. “We are going to execute our plan, whether [the airplane is] built in the Puget Sound or anywhere else.”