Saturday, November 23, 2013

Boeing asks 15 sites to submit bids for 777X jet; North Charleston ‘being considered’

Boeing has asked 15 sites across the United States through formal request for proposals to submit bids to build the company’s new 777X long-haul jet, The Seattle Times reported Saturday.

“We are being considered,” said Paul Campbell, executive director of Charleston County Aviation Authority.

Campbell said he had not been formally notified, but, “based on the success Boeing has had here, I’m confident we will be on the list.”

“Boeing loves South Carolina and our ability to turn and burn,” Campbell said. “I really do think we have a shot, but you are competing with some pretty good other areas.”

The Seattle newspaper reported Washington state, Long Beach, Calif., and Salt Lake City, Utah, are also on the list.

The report did not say specifically that North Charleston made the cut, only that it’s “likely” to be on the list, along with Huntsville, Ala., and San Antonio, Texas.

Other sites include existing locations where Boeing does business and new “greenfield” sites, according to the newspaper.

Several high-ranking politicians in South Carolina, including Gov. Nikki Haley, said they had been in touch with Boeing officials about building the new airplane or some part of it in North Charleston.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder told the Times the formal requests for proposals were sent out late Friday.

Alder said the sites were selected “based on conversations that those sites or locations asked to be included and met the qualifications we were looking for,” according to The Seattle Times.

Boeing wants all bids back by mid-December and will make a decision early next year.

The bids can include work for final assembly of the new twin-engine passenger plane and for construction of the new composite wings, which tips that fold up.

The work could occur at the same place or separately, Alder told The Times.

Boeing made good on its pledge to look outside Washington state for competitive bids to build the new airplane after the International Association of Machinists rejected an eight-year contract extension through 2024 that would have ensured labor peace but meant union members would have to make concessions on pensions and other benefits.

The Boeing spokesman said the company does not plan to re-enter talks with union members on a contract. The current union contract expires in 2016.

Boeing assembles and makes parts for the 787 Dreamliner at its North Charleston campus at Charleston International Airport.

The Chicago-based aerospace giant is also buying 267 acres along International Boulevard across from its sprawling 787 factory for undisclosed uses. A new paint facility for the 787 is likely to be on a small part of the property. Boeing now flies its completed 787s from North Charleston to Texas to be painted.

The airplane manufacturer also recently announced that some of the detailed design work for the 777X will be performed in North Charleston, as well as other locations across the U.S., including Huntville, Ala.; Long Beach, Calif.; Philadelphia and St. Louis. A design center in Moscow will also play a part.

The company also broke ground earlier this month on a new 225,000-square-foot factory in Palmetto Commerce Park in North Charleston to build engine components for its 737 MAX airplane. The 48-acre site can accommodate future expansion up to 600,000 square feet.

Boeing is expected to start production on the 777X by 2017 or 2018 with the first flight by the end of the decade.

Earlier this week, the company picked up more than 200 orders for the new jet during the Dubai Air Show in the Middle East. Most of the orders came from Middle East airlines.