Boeing confirms talks are underway with its largest union on the location of final assembly and wing manufacturing for the 777X family.
The discussions with the International of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) appear to be aimed at tidying up one of the final mysteries of the 777X project only weeks before a likely programme launch at the Dubai Air Show.
Boeing currently manufactures the wings for the 777-200LR and 777-300ER in Auburn, Washington, then moves them by truck about 80km (43.2nm) north to Everett to be assembled with the fuselage sections and aircraft systems.
The 777X will feature an all-new, 71m wingspan made of carbonfibre reinforced plastic (CFRP), the largest of any commercial aircraft except the aluminium alloy airfoil of the Airbus A380. Candidates to assemble the wing have ranged from 787 composite wing supplier Mitsubishi, to an extension of Boeing’s new factory in South Carolina to the existing facilities in Auburn.
Meanwhile, Boeing’s decision not to alter the cross-section of the 777X fuselage seems to give the edge to the existing final assembly infrastructure in Everett.
But the company’s long history of disputes and labour actions with IAM as well as cost concerns have led to an open competition.
Boeing is actively seeking to procure another 260 acres of space adjacent to the new 787 assembly line in North Charleston, South Carolina. Meanwhile, Washington state officials have made it a political priority to keep 777X final assembly in Everett.
Boeing chairman and chief executive Jim McNerney has said that the 777X family will be launched by the end of the year. The family includes the 400-seat-class 777-9X and the 350-seat-class 777-8X.