Boeing fails to commit to Renton plant

Washington DC
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Despite more than four decades of 737 production experience, Boeing's leadership has indicated it will make its Renton, Washington facility compete for the right to produce the re-engined 737.

"We haven't made the final decision on where we're going to produce the re-engined airplane," Boeing chief executive Jim McNerney said.

"We have other options and we're going to study them all as we think it through.

"Until we have sorted out the milestones associated with the ramp-up, the degree to which we have to modify the airplane, there would be major investments in Renton, beyond that currently planned for production rates," he added.

renton assembly site (boeing 737
 © Boeing
Boeing had produced the 737 at its Renton facility for over 40 years

Boeing is currently planning to ramp up to 42 737s a month by 2014, but sees rates of 50- to 60 aircraft a month by the end of the decade.

"Until we sort that all out we can't confirm where we're going to put it precisely. But would putting it in Renton be a good option? Yes," McNerney said.

Boeing's newly-opened Charleston, South Carolina facility could provide another option.

Boeing has still to finalise the aircraft's configuration and the diameter of the fans on the CFM International Leap-X engines and the extensiveness of systemic airframe changes to achieve its promised 10-12% improvement in fuel burn.

Additionally, McNerney said the company had not yet determined when, or if, it would make a complete production transition from today's Next Generation to the re-engined model. However, he said the jet would be "obviously" offered as an option to customers.

In response to McNerney's comments Jim Albaugh, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, sought to reassure the Renton workforce of its future, telling The Seattle Times: "We will [commit to Renton], it's just a matter of time."

However, Boeing's Chicago headquarters took the unusual step to disavow the reassurances calling them "neither accurate nor representative of the company's or BCA's position".