Initially, the propulsion plant will make engine air inlets for the 737 MAX, a new generation of the Boeing's workhorse 737. Boeing already has 1,500 orders for the plane and the first deliveries are expected in 2017.
Charlie Hix, the director of Boeing's Propulsion South Carolina, said a new design for the inlet "is going to enable the 737 MAX to really deliver market-leading fuel economy and to be one of the quietest airplanes in the sky."
He told dozens of workers gathered at the construction site that the plant will be finished in about a year and reach full production in 2015.
Officials did not comment on the total investment or how many workers will be employed. But they said it is part of the commitment Boeing made earlier this year to invest $1 billion and create 2,000 new jobs in South Carolina within eight years.
Hix said the propulsion plant's work could be expanded.
"What starts here today is intended to lead to more propulsion projects in the future - inlets, thrust-reversers, exhaust systems, pylons and so forth," he said. "But make no assumptions. This will only happen if, and only if, we perform flawlessly on the 737 MAX inlet. No pressure team, but we have to do a perfect job on this."
Nicole Piasecki, the vice president and general manager of Boeing's Propulsion Systems Division, said making the inlets is a change because such components for Boeing's other aircraft are made by other companies.
"The purpose is to have tighter integration and better overall performance," she said. "We will begin the journey on the 737 MAX and if we are successful, we will continue to grow into other programs."
She added "we have new technology - both product technology and production technology - so we will really be developing a state-of-the-art production system here."
Adjacent to the 787 manufacturing plant, Boeing has an almost 60,000-square foot delivery center where airlines take final delivery of their new planes. A plant that makes interior components for the 787s is located adjacent to the site of the new propulsion plant.
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