EVERETT — A Chinese lion dance, the beat of African drums, a 747-8 cargo jet and a 787 passenger plane all helped set the scene for a the grand opening Wednesday of the Boeing Co.’s aircraft delivery center.
“Isn’t she a beauty?” said Pat Shanahan, vice president of airplane programs for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, pointing at the three-story building shining in the sun.
The 180,000-square-foot facility was built to help Boeing keep pace with jet deliveries over the coming years as the company increases airplane production.
The old delivery center was built in the late 1960s as Boeing was readying the first 747 jumbo jet. Updated in 2006, the center was the site of 3,600 Boeing widebody jet deliveries to customers all over the world.
The new center, which will accommodate about 600 workers, can deliver three aircraft simultaneously and has jet bridges like those at commercial airports. The sculpted, silvery-gray exterior also includes 27,098 square feet of glass.
“Last year we delivered a record 183 airplanes and this new facility will help us continue to increase deliveries,” said Tom Maxwell, vice president of the Boeing’s Everett Delivery Center.
When Boeing broke ground on the new delivery center in March 2012, Jeff Klemann, who was then the vice president of the delivery center, called the new facility a “symbol of Boeing’s long-term commitment to the Pacific Northwest.”
Boeing’s future in Washington was on the mind of Gov. Jay Inslee when he spoke at the grand opening event Wednesday.
“We know we’re going to be in a competition to make sure the 777X is delivered through these doors and nowhere else,” Inslee said.
Boeing officials are expected to ask the company’s board this month for permission to offer an updated 777 to customers. Inslee vowed to push transportation and workforce training initiatives through the Legislature, which could convince Boeing to build the 777X in Everett.
The company’s commitment to the region has been in question since Boeing moved the corporate headquarters to Chicago in 2001. The decision in 2009 to add a 787 final-assembly line in South Carolina, rather than Everett, fueled concerns about the company’s loyalty to the Puget Sound area.
Over the past year, Boeing has made overtures of willingness to stay here. Construction is under way across the runway for an operations center for Boeing’s fleet of modified 747s, called Dreamlifters, which ferry 787 parts around the world.
Earlier this year, Boeing also finalized a deal to buy a Paine Field hangar, which it previously leased from Aviation Technical Services. Known as the Everett Modification Center, the facility is where Boeing employees have been reworking and altering some of the company’s earliest-built 787s.
Even as Boeing adds to the Paine Field campus, it’s also growing the North Charleston, S.C., site. A delivery center opened there in 2011. Boeing announced in February it also will establish a Dreamlifter operations center in North Charleston. The company also agreed to buy more land around the South Carolina site.
Although Boeing’s Shanahan didn’t commit the 777X to Everett, he said the company wouldn’t build a new facility like the delivery center if it weren’t committed to “being here for a while.”
Boeing anticipates delivering 200 twin-aisle jets this year. That includes deliveries of the company’s grounded 787, which Shanahan hopes will be returned to commercial flight “sooner rather than later.”
The Dreamliner was grounded Jan. 16 after problems with the jet’s lithium-ion batteries. Boeing has redesigned the battery and has conducted tests on 787s with the new battery. Flights of the 787 on Monday and Wednesday, however, were not part of the company’s effort to get the FAA to sign off on the redesigned battery. That flight will come within days, the company said.
Michelle Dunlop: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org.
Delivery center by the numbers
•1,894,800 pounds of steel.
588,897 hours of labor.
180,000 square feet.
27,098 square feet of exterior glass.
11,087 cubic yards of concrete.
250 guests can be accommodated in event area.
4 rooms for signing delivery contracts.
3 aircraft can be delivered simultaneously.
Source: Boeing Co.