Boeing's New Dreamliner To Be Built Solely In South Carolina

Jul 31, 2014

The production line at a Boeing facility.
The production line at a Boeing facility.
Credit Courtesy/Boeing Company

South Carolina has won the exclusive right to build the 787-10, the longest version yet of the Dreamliner. The decision means South Carolina will make as many Dreamliners as Washington state does by the end of the decade.

The decision was expected. Dreamliner fuselages are already made in Charleston, then flown to Everett in the Dreamlifter – the cargo plane Boeing built for the job – as required. But the 787-10 fuselage will be too long to fit inside the Dreamlifter, meaning assembly is easiest done in South Carolina.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder said giving the super-stretched version of the 787 to Charleston means the two factories will both be making seven Dreamliners a month by the end of the decade. The company is now producing 10 Dreamliners a month, with seven being produced in Everett, Washington.

"It really does allow us to take advantage of the capacity at the Charleston plant,” Alder said in an interview. “And also balance things out between the two sides."

The engineers union, SPEEA, said the company’s decision is part of a plan to duplicate commercial airplane production facilities around the world – to avoid having one production line’s troubles stop the flow of planes.

It's a trend Washington state has not found the means to stop. Governor Jay Inslee put out a statement saying Boeing's decision was anticipated, built into the state's strategy and cost no jobs.

But Ray Goforth, the executive director of SPEEA, said the loss of the 787-10’s potential is a lost opportunity to the state.

"The governor owes an apology to every Boeing employee in the region," Goforth said in an interview.

A decade ago Washington gave Boeing $3 billion in tax incentives in exchange for the Dreamliner production line. Inslee renewed the package in his bargain for the 777X, which ballooned the deal to $8.7 billion.

Goforth said Inslee should have been more demanding.

"He was warned ahead of time that if he didn't insert clawbacks and protections in that tax subsidy, just like every other state did, that Boeing would take the money and move jobs out anyway," he said. "And that's precisely what's happening. "

The machinists also responded to Boeing's latest retreat from Washington. "Hold your heads high," local president Jon Holden posted on the union's website. "We cower to no one."

WATCH: Boeing’s 787-9, a smaller version of the 787-10, performs at the 2014 Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire, England. The 787-10 is not expected to be in production until 2017.

Carolyn Adolph can be reached at cadolph@kuow.org or 206-221-0746.