November 26, 2013 in Business

Boeing asks 15 sites for bids on 777X

Dominic Gates Seattle Times
 

SEATTLE – Boeing Co. has asked 15 locations around the United States to submit formal bids for the work of building its forthcoming 777X jet, according to a person close to the discussions.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder confirmed Saturday that a formal request for proposals was sent out to “more than a dozen” sites late Friday afternoon and into the evening.

Boeing also said Saturday it is not in any talks with the Machinists union to get past the rejection of its contract offer that precipitated the opening up of the site search.

Washington state is one of the 15 sites under consideration, said the person close to the discussions. Long Beach, Calif., and Salt Lake City are also on the list.

The other locations include both existing Boeing locations and new “green field” sites, according to the source.

Other sites likely to be on Boeing’s list are Huntsville, Ala.; San Antonio; and North Charleston, S.C.

The states of Kansas and Missouri have also recently declared their interest.

All have existing aerospace expertise and Boeing facilities.

Aviation analyst Richard Aboulafia of the Teal Group expressed skepticism Saturday that Boeing would choose a green-field site – a completely new location with no experience in airplane manufacturing.

“That’s just really a bad idea,” Aboulafia said. “You are adding multiple layers of risk both in terms of workforce and infrastructure.”

Boeing did that on the 787 Dreamliner program when it chose South Carolina to build big fuselage sections.

That caused such delays and quality problems in the jet program’s early years that the chief executives of both Emirates and Qatar Airways, whose orders launched the 777X in Dubai earlier this month, declared in interviews there that they have told Boeing not to repeat that experience.

Casting a wide net for bidders does, however, “do a good job of motivating” the more-established contenders, said Aboulafia.

In his view, the best site by far remains Washington state because of the workforce and infrastructure already in place here building the current 777.

Boeing is not disclosing what it asked for in the requests sent Friday.

Alder said the sites were selected “based on conversations that those sites or locations asked to be included and met the qualifications we were looking for.”

Responses are due by mid-December, Alder said. “We expect a final decision early next year.”

Boeing will consider proposals for final assembly of the airplane, for fabrication and assembly of its giant composite wing, or for both.

Alex Pietsch, director of the governor’s aerospace office, said Washington is “still well-positioned.”

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