The aerospace company says it's moving the work to Salt Lake City and Italy. The tail has been undergoing development at its research center in Seattle.
Boeing has decided that production of the horizontal tail of the 787-9, whose manufacturing process was developed at its Seattle research center, will move beginning this year to a Boeing plant in Salt Lake City and to Italy’s Alenia.
The news, announced Thursday, came during a visit by Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner to Salt Lake.
It kills any slim hope that the work of building the tails might stay in Seattle.
Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said the decision won’t mean job losses for Seattle.
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Other work will be rotated into the advanced-research center as the tail work moves out, he said.
He said Salt Lake City will gain more than 100 jobs by 2014.
The 787-9 is the next, larger version of the Dreamliner, and is to enter service in early 2014, after the initial 787-8 model being built today.
Alenia makes all the horizontal tails for the 787-8, but those parts produced many quality issues and led to significant delays to the program.
In fall 2010, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Jim Albaugh said the company was “taking a very hard look at where the 787-9 tails should be built,” and later announced that initial development work would be done at the Developmental Center beside Boeing Field in Seattle.
The Developmental Center is doing that work, as well as initial production of the 787-9 tail.
Last May, Boeing cautioned that later production might move elsewhere within Boeing once the manufacturing method was working well.
The plan is to begin shifting assembly and integration work of horizontal tails for the early production aircraft to Boeing’s fabrication plant in Salt Lake toward the end of this year.
Later, for long-term production, the work will be split between Salt Lake and Italy, Boeing’s Alder said.
The first 787-9 horizontal tail will be delivered from the Seattle facility in the fourth quarter of this year, Alder said.
The first Salt Lake one will be delivered in the first quarter of next year.
Alder said no date has been set for the first 787-9 horizontal tail from Alenia.
Connie Kelliher, spokeswoman for the International Association of Machinists, said the announcement was not a surprise.
Kelliher is confident the workforce here won’t lose out.
Boeing has big development projects ahead for three new derivative aircraft: the 737 MAX, 787-10 and 777X. Kelliher said that means “a whole lot of work in the pipeline” for Seattle.
The decision on the 787-9 tail makes Salt Lake a key part of the Dreamliner’s global supply chain.
Last July, Boeing opened a new assembly line in the Salt Lake fabrication plant to produce the vertical tail fins for the 787 being built in its new Charleston, S.C., plant.
That move was part of a strategy to duplicate all Puget Sound-area production — in this case, the 787 tail fins in Frederickson, near Tacoma — to ensure continuity of supply if work here was disrupted.
With the addition of the horizontal tail for the 787-9, Salt Lake will have both major pieces of the Dreamliner tail.
Alder said the Utah site has 522 employees and could grow to 650.
Having two assembly sites for the horizontal tails should also help Boeing as it ramps up production.
By 2014, it will have three 787 final-assembly lines to feed: the original line in Everett, a “surge line” in Everett, and one in Charleston, S.C.
Explaining why the work will be split with Alenia, a Boeing statement said: “We try to have more than one source for parts and assemblies.”
“When it is possible, we have a bias toward additional sourcing,” the statement said.
Last summer, Boeing pushed Alenia to renegotiate the original terms of its 787 contract after the quality problems with the horizontal tails on the initial model, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions.
The fact that Alenia will retain some of the 787-9 tail work suggests the Italians played hardball in those negotiations.
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or email@example.com