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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Washington best place to build new plane, study says

Capt. Randy Neville, left, a Boeing 787 test pilot, looks out the cockpit window as his Boeing 787 Dreamliner jumbo passenger jet taxis on the tarmac at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, Friday, March 9, 2012, in Phoenix. A new study by a Washington group claims Washington is the best state to build airplaines. (Ross D. Franklin / AP)

OLYMPIA – Washington is the best state to build airplanes, according to a Washington group that wants Washington’s biggest aerospace firm to build its newest airplane in – you guessed it – Washington.

A new study for the Choose Washington New Mid-Market Airplane Council, which is trying to nail down a new plane from Boeing, touts the state’s production advantages on eight factors that include everything from costs and workforce to taxes and infrastructure.

The Aerospace Competitive Economics Study looked at all 50 states and the District of Columbia, ranking Washington in the top 10 in seven of the eight categories, and Number 1 overall. Ohio, North Carolina, Kansas and Colorado rounded out the top five.

Competition for aircraft production work is intensifying, the study says, for a simple reason.

“The outlook for the aircraft industry is now the best it has been in decades,” consultants from the Teal Group said.

Boeing is the leader in most segments of the commercial aviation market, but Airbus has a commanding lead in one segment, the “middle market” for planes with between 190 and 250 seats. Boeing is proposing to build the NMA, or new middle-market airplane, which will seat between 220 and 260 passengers.

“The company needs to do everything it can to make the NMA competitive” with other planes in that segment, consultants said.

The changing nature of aviation manufacturing means the plane could be built anywhere, but economics plays a role and the top states in the study maintain competitive advantages, they said.

The study for the council was paid for by two groups with a major stake in keeping and growing aerospace jobs in Washington, the International Association of Machinists union and Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace.

Although much of the state’s aerospace is located in Western Washington, the second largest “cluster” of those companies is in Spokane and they are well-positioned to support growth for the NMA, Todd Mielke, chief executive officer of Greater Spokane Inc., said.