In front of a bushy, unevenly sloping expanse of undeveloped ground on the west side of Everett’s Paine Field runway, Gov. Jay Inslee pitched to the media Thursday the idea that Boeing could one day make giant composite wings there for its 777X jet.
He touted the location’s easy access to both the main runway and Boeing’s assembly plant, and his intention to ensure “as rapid and efficient a permitting system as we can design.”
“This is about as sweet as it gets when it comes to making this a great spot for the 777 and other projects,” Inslee said.
As Boeing work in Washington state increasingly trickles away to other company sites in South Carolina and California, it’s vital for the state to keep hold of the 777X program, expected to formally launch with major orders this fall at the Dubai Air Show.
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The current 777, Boeing’s star large widebody, is made in Everett, so assembly of the 777X will almost certainly be done there too
. However, unlike the current all-metal model, the 777X will feature carbon-fiber-reinforced plastic composite wings like the 787 Dreamliner. Where those will be fabricated is uncertain.
Boeing will need a large new composites facility, and clearly the proposed manufacturing site Inslee touted is a field of dreams for Washington aerospace.
But it won’t be built unless Boeing shows it’s ready to come.
Paine Field airport director Dave Waggoner said the initial step, costing $8 million, would be to clear and level the land and build an industrial pad that would be the base for 600,000 square feet of buildings up to 80 feet tall.
He said the county can finance that phase with bonds but won’t move unless Boeing shows interest.
“We have the bonding capacity, but we don’t have the business case,” Waggoner said. “We’d need some kind of agreement with Boeing to move dirt.”
If Boeing chose this for its 777X facility, a second design and permitting phase would begin. Waggoner said the plan might also go forward if another company that modifies airplanes or makes large sections chose to locate there.
So far, Boeing executives haven’t given Inslee or anyone else even a hint of what they are thinking.
“Boeing has not indicated that this is the site of choice, or even favorite,” Inslee said. “There are other sites in the state, north of the Boeing (assembly plant) is a site. … But we want to be ready and I think we are heading in that direction.”
“There’s a lot of things we can do,” Inslee said. “It’s real estate, it’s trained personnel and it’s permitting. Those three things are well under way in the state.”
The director of Inslee’s aerospace office, Alex Pietsch, said the state will complete the initial permitting and compile a report on the site within a week and will then ask for a meeting to present the data to Boeing.
He said the state in the coming months will reveal other education and infrastructure initiatives targeted at winning 777X.
Earlier in the day, 375 Boeing engineers learned that their jobs may disappear as the company moves work to Long Beach, Calif.
That news quickly drew political response from the state Senate majority coalition in Olympia.
In a statement, Sen. Rodney Tom, D-Bellevue, who has joined with Republicans in the coalition, called for swift action to keep Boeing, including workers’ compensation reform and changes to environmental regulations.
Sen. Mike Hewitt, R-Walla Walla, turned more directly on Inslee.
“Under Governor Locke, we lost Boeing’s corporate headquarters. Then came Governor Gregoire and the loss of thousands of production jobs to South Carolina,” Hewitt said in his statement. “What’s Governor Inslee’s legacy going to be on Boeing?”
Dominic Gates: (206) 464-2963 or firstname.lastname@example.org