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What's next for the 737 MAX?

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By Michelle Dunlop
Herald Writer
The head of the Boeing Co.'s 737 program has plenty of work ahead: speeding up jet production and developing the re-engined 737 MAX.
Not having to worry about distracting, and often touchy, labor negotiations next year as both of those tasks swing into full gear is good news for Beverly Wyse, general manager of the 737 program.
"It's a positive for all of us," Wyse said Thursday, the day after Boeing's Machinists voted to extend their contract with Boeing until September 2016.
As an incentive for ratifying the contract, Boeing agreed to build its re-engined 737 MAX in Renton, where its existing 737 is assembled.
"This is the right place for us to build the MAX," Wyse said.
Earlier this week, Boeing rolled out its first 737 that was produced at a pace of 35 aircraft monthly. Boeing has announced plans to go up to 42 737s monthly by 2014. Wyse said the 737 is focused on making sure the speedier production goes smoothly.
Boeing's Jim Albaugh, president of the commercial airplanes division, has hinted at 737 rates as high as 60 jets a month. On Thursday, Wyse said she has a team doing a "visioning exercise" -- trying to figure out how Boeing meets the 60-jet target.
"We've got some interesting ideas," Wyse said.
Those ideas include having suppliers ship more completed structures, in the fashion Boeing does on its 787 jet. However, Wyse doesn't expect that the 737 line will ever have the level of work being completed outside the factory as the 787 does.
As Wyse's team is looking at higher production levels, it's also trying to figure out how Boeing's workers in Renton continue to build the existing 737 and start work on the 737 MAX.
"We're building the (737 MAX) team," Wyse said.
In a message to employees late last week, Albaugh said that Boeing will have a 737 MAX team of about 1,000 people in the next couple of years.
Boeing and Wyse also are busy building the backlog for the 737 MAX. Boeing says it has more than 700 commitments for the single-aisle aircraft, which was launched in August. "We've got customers lined up waiting for MAX proposals," Wyse said.
She expects to see many of the tentative commitments for the MAX converted to firm orders next year. And the company still had 2,192 unfilled orders for its existing 737 at the end of November.
But 737 work isn't just isolated to Renton. Workers in Boeing's Interiors Resource Center in Everett build sidewalls, stow bins and dividers for the 737. Boeing introduced in 2010 its new Sky Interior for the 737. That interior is based off the 787.
For all 737 workers, as well as Boeing customers, Wyse was happy to see the company and union reach an agreement roughly eight months ahead of schedule.
"I'm very excited for the employees," she said.
Story tags » 737



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