A decision over where and how to make the all composite wing for the 777X is the key pacing item for the large new twin derivative says Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner.
The aircraft is set to enter service in mid-2020 and to meet that target Boeing will have to make major choices no later than early 2014. “We’ve got to put bricks and mortar in place to do the wing and do the other things, so we needed to make a decision on where we need to be and put those facilities in place, particularly for the wing. It’s not something we’ve done in Puget Sound or anywhere else, other than Japan,” he adds referring to the Mitsubishi made composite wing for the 787.
The 777X derivative will incorporate an all-new composite wing with an extended, updated version of the current conventional fuselage. The two-variant family will be powered by new General Electric GE9X engines and are expected to be officially launched at the Dubai air show on Nov 17.
Showing clear disappointment over the recently rejected labor contract that would have cleared the way for the 777X and its new wing to be assembled in the Puget Sound area, Conner says “we continue to look at other options. We’ve got time to figure that out. It’s not something we have to get done in the next month or so.”
A final decision over a specific location depends on a variety of factors, he adds. “We know what the technology is going to be. We’re going to look very broadly at capability and capacity. If we’re in the U.S. it is about the packages the states could bring in terms of training, tax incentives and so on. If it is overseas then it is about capacity, technology and options.”
Conner also confirmed that one of the options under consideration is to place the wing work alongside that of the 787 in Japan to avoid the cost of a steep learning curve at another location. Describing the option as “a good thought” Conner cautioned that it is only one of numerous possibilities.
Despite the failure of the agreement over the revised labor contract Conner adds that placing 777X work, or at least elements of it, in the Puget Sound area has not been ruled out. “Seattle is not done and dusted. Puget Sound is one of a wide variety of options.” However he adds that “at this point we have no plan to go back to the IAM (International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers).” As far as who moves first – “we’d say the ball is back in their court,” he adds.
Contrary to some earlier reports Boeing says the IAM no vote over the contract extension does not impact the similar 2011 agreement which saw assembly work on the 737 MAX remain in place at Renton, Wash. “The agreement in place for MAX stays in place,” says Conner.