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Vought move could signal Boeing airliner production shake-up

The Carlyle divestment of Vought's 787 operations may be the precursor to a fundamental realignment of Boeing's airliner assembly strategy if it proceeds with placing a second 787 assembly line in Charleston, South Carolina, say sources close to the decision-making process.

Although Boeing declines to comment on any potential acquisition, it says that it has "long said that a second line is an issue we will consider in due course, and we have, and will continue to evaluate the many factors that will be a part of any decision. Our primary focus right now is getting the 787 into flight test and getting the existing production system running smoothly."

Boeing has never built jet airliners outside Washington or California - with the exception of a few dozen McDonnell Douglas MD-80/90s produced in China in the 1980-90s. So the creation of a second assembly line in south-east USA would be the further manifestation of a trend to move from US states with a strong labour presence, to "Right to Work" states like South Carolina and Alabama, where union membership cannot be a condition of employment.

Airbus, which in partnership with Northrop Grumman is fighting Boeing for the controversial US Air Force tanker contract, would assemble modified A330-200s in Mobile, Alabama if it wins the deal.

Pat Shanahan, Boeing's vice-president of airplane programmes, said at June's Paris air show that his company's decision on a second 787 line is "more mature and advanced than it was a year ago", emphasising that Boeing is "not going to ponder [a decision on a second line] a long time".

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