Boeing to move all 787 ‘Dreamliner’ production from Everett to South Carolina

Oct 1, 2020

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Boeing will say goodbye to its production line north of Seattle for the 787 jet next year when it consolidates all Dreamliner assembly in South Carolina.

The Chicago-based planemaker’s decision to build the 787 exclusively at its North Charleston plant comes in response to the slowdown in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic. Airlines are flying far less than they did before the crisis and many are in talks to defer or cancel aircraft orders — enough so that Boeing will slash Dreamliner production to just six planes a month from 10 in 2021.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes president and CEO Stan Deal said the move was needed to “ensure the long-term success of the 787 program,” in a statement Thursday.

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Boeing’s plant in Everett, Washington, at Paine Field (PAE) near Seattle has been the backbone of its wide-body jet production since it opened in 1967. The facility has produced every type of wide-body plane Boeing made since the 747, including the 757, 767 and 777. Dreamliner production began there in 2007.

“The 787 is the tremendous success it is today thanks to our great teammates in Everett,” Deal told staff in an internal communiqué shared with TPG. “They helped give birth to an airplane that changed how airlines and passengers want to fly.”

Deal assured employees that Boeing remains committed to the Seattle area where it will continue to produce the 737 MAX and 777X aircraft. Only the latter jet, the 777X, is assembled in Everett. The 737s are produced at the planemaker’s Renton, Washington, plant south of Seattle.

Related: Boeing delays 777X, 737 MAX timeline as COVID hits business

Boeing also assembles 747s and 767s in Everett. However, it plans to end 747 production in 2022. The 767 line is limited to freighters and a contract for KC-46A tankers from the U.S. military.

Wall Street analysts have posed questions regarding the future of Boeing’s Everett facilities, especially considering anemic demand for the 777X during the crisis. The planemaker slashed 777 production to just two planes a month for the next five years in July.

The 787 news comes a day after Federal Aviation Administration administrator Steve Dickson completed a test flight of the 737 MAX from Boeing Field (BFI). While he said he “liked what I saw,” he added that there was still work to do before the jet was re-certified for passenger service.

Related: FAA chief upbeat after piloting Boeing 737 MAX test flight, but says ‘still work to do’

The decision to consolidate Dreamliner production in South Carolina presents its own challenges. Regulators have repeatedly examined the manufacturing processes at Boeing’s plant there after complaints of poor production quality and oversight.

In addition, Boeing’s move to South Carolina is a blow for organized labor. The North Charleston plant was opened after difficulties with the Machinists’ union in Everett and the planemaker has been accused of firing staff who sought to organize at the South Carolina plant.

South Carolina is also a so-called “right to work” state that bars new employees from being compelled to join a union when they are hired.

Boeing aims to have all 787-8, -9 and -10 work up and running in North Charleston by mid-2021.

Related: United Airlines expects little to no impact from Boeing 787 manufacturing issues

Featured image by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images.

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