SEATTLE — Boeing is outsourcing to a North Carolina company the production of specialty and urgently needed metal parts for its 787 Dreamliner assembly facility in North Charleston, S.C.
It’s the latest in a series of moves aimed at duplicating on the East Coast all the capabilities Boeing has in the Pacific Northwest, said company spokeswoman Cris McHugh. The idea is to make the Charleston facility independent of the operation here, so that it can continue running in the event of a labor strike or other interruption in production on the West Coast.
The plant in Shelby, N.C., run by Curtiss-Wright, will supply Boeing’s Charleston operation with urgent metal-parts support, a role the Auburn, Wash., plant plays for the final-assembly operations in nearby Renton and Everett.
McHugh said Curtiss-Wright will provide backup to a team of about 20 Boeing fabrication workers in Charleston. If a supplier fails to deliver, or if a part is found to be defective during final assembly, the Shelby facility will be on call 24/7 to make and deliver a replacement part.
Shelby is less than four hours north of Charleston, and the plant employs about 300 people.
Curtiss-Wright is breaking ground there on an expansion of its 210,000-square-foot facility and is buying new machinery, an investment of about $13 million, according to the North Carolina governor’s office. Because Curtiss-Wright has committed to hiring 25 more people, North Carolina provided a grant of $130,000.
The state said those new jobs are estimated to pay an average $50,000 a year, plus benefits. The average salary in that part of North Carolina is $32,000.
Curtiss-Wright evolved from a company founded by the Wright brothers. It is best known today for manufacturing flight-control systems and actuators for commercial aircraft and military applications.
For example, it manufactures the flap tracks on the trailing edge of the 737 wing, and supplies the 787’s cargo-door mechanism and a strut assembly holding various hydraulic components on the wing.
From Shelby, Curtiss-Wright expects to provide mostly smaller parts to Charleston, from metal brackets to structural pieces no more than 10 feet long, said a person familiar with the contract.
It will also have personnel close to or inside the Boeing plant in North Charleston who will be constantly on call.
Last year, Boeing said it would build a facility in South Carolina to provide aircraft interiors for its Charleston-built 787s, duplicating work now done for all its airplanes in Everett.
And last month, it said the Charleston-built 787s will fly to Amarillo, Texas, to be painted by an outside contractor.
Connie Kelliher, a spokeswoman for the International Association of Machinists, the union that represents the workers who do all those jobs in Washington state’s Puget Sound region, said the Curtiss-Wright contract is consistent with Boeing’s declared intentions in South Carolina.
“None of the duplication makes sense to us. Usually, when you streamline your business, you don’t duplicate,” Kelliher said. “But it’s what Boeing’s plan has been.”