A swifter 767 line

Going smaller led to big things for the Boeing Co.’s 767 production line.

Beginning with aircraft number 1,001, Boeing is building its 767 in an area of its Everett factory that takes up 44 percent less space than the original production line.

The move, which took 13 months to complete

, was done to make room for a temporary assembly line of Boeing’s delayed 787 Dreamliner, although Boeing executives recently have hinted the 787 line might not be temporary.

“We would not have made the investment we made” if Boeing didn’t see demand for the 767, said Jim Albaugh, president of the commercial airplanes division, at an event in February commemorating the 1,000th 767 built in Everett.

The dramatic shrinking of the 767 production bay came at a time when Boeing was putting in its bid for a contract supplying the U.S. Air Force with 179 of its 767-based aerial refueling tankers.

On Feb. 24, the Air Force picked Boeing’s tanker over that of European rival EADS, the parent company of Airbus. EADS had planned to build a big, brand-new factory in assembly plant in Mobile, Ala., if it won the contest.

The Air Force deal will keep Boeing’s 767 line busy in Everett for years to come. Without it, Boeing has a backlog of roughly 50 unfilled orders, which would take until 2013 to finish building.

Even before the Air Force picked Boeing’s tanker, Albaugh predicted new orders for the commercial 767 could be on the way, thanks to the cost efficiencies the company was able to come up with for its tanker bid. He also saw a greater demand for widebody aircraft like the 767 that Boeing and its rival, Airbus, can satisfy. EADS, Airbus’ parent company, competed against Boeing for the Air Force contract with an Airbus A330-based tanker.

Boeing’s new 767 line, which takes up the back part of its original bay in the factory, is ramping up to a rate of two 767s monthly, said Darrel Larson, director of 767 manufacturing. That’s the maximum production rate the Air Force said it would require for its tanker contest.

“We’ll demonstrate we can meet that this year,” Larson said last month.

Even in its smaller space, the 767 is being built 20 percent to 30 percent more efficiently than the first 1,000 planes, Larson said.

“You don’t arrive at a milestone like this without excellent product,” said Kim Pastega, general manager of the 767 program.

To comply with government rules limiting access of employees on military projects, Boeing will cordon off the 767 work area when it’s producing tankers. Boeing already has experience balancing commercial and military projects at its Renton site, where its workers build both 737 commercial jets and 737-based submarine hunters for the military.

Absent a delay in the contract, Boeing could begin assembling the first 767 tanker in Everett in 2014, Pastega said the day after Boeing was announced as the winner. Development work on the 767-based tanker is well under way, she said. The Air Force expects to receive its first tanker in 2015 and a total of 18 tankers by 2017.

“This will be a rapid-paced program,” said Dennis Muilenburg, president of Boeing’s defense division, in a briefing after the tanker announcement Feb. 24. “The need for this tanker is significant; we’ll be moving out briskly with our customer.”

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Exterior of the new Quil Ceda Creek Casino on Thursday, Jan. 21, 2020 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Tulalip Tribes reach deal with state on sports betting

If all goes to plan, the tribes could get federal approval for sports books at two casinos by the fall.

Demolition of the YMCA in downtown continues on Tuesday, April 13, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Apartments will rise from the site of the former YMCA annex

In all, 260 units are planned for the downtown Everett site. The older brick building will remain.

Rescuers carry a part of aircraft recovered from Java Sea where a Sriwijaya Air passenger jet crashed, at Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. The search for the black boxes of a crashed Sriwijaya Air jet intensified Monday to boost the investigation into what caused the plane carrying dozens of people to nosedive at high velocity into the Java Sea. (AP Photo/Dita Alangkara)
Lawsuit over 737 crash alleges autothrottle malfunction

A preliminary report indicates that pilots had repeatedly reported the problem days earlier.

Brecca Yates, left, helps guide dental student Kaylee Andrews through a crown prep exercise at Northshore Dental Assisting Academy on Friday, April 9, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Dental staffing shortages are more than a pain in the mouth

With hundreds of open hygienist and assistant positions statewide, local dentists are short-handed.

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2020 file photo, traffic passes the Boeing airplane production plant, in Everett, Wash.  U.S. manufacturers expanded in March 2021 at the fastest pace in 37 years, a sign of strengthening demand as the pandemic wanes and government emergency aid flows through the economy.  (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, file)
Boeing sees uptick in airplane orders as travel picks up

The company in April delivered 19 Maxes, three 737s for military use and seven larger widebody planes.

Signs from the Department of Ecology warning about contamination in the creek that runs through Powder Mill Gulch on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
State order targets Boeing Everett plant’s polluted history

Records show a dispute over cleanup requirements for chemically tainted water. The company denies there’s a disagreement.

FILE- In this Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, a Boeing 737 Max jet, piloted by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chief Steve Dickson, prepares to land at Boeing Field following a test flight in Seattle. Boeing says it has informed 16 of its customers that they should address a possible electrical issue in certain 737 Max aircraft before using them further. Boeing said Friday, April 9, 2021, that the recommendation was made “to allow for verification that a sufficient ground path exists for a component of the electrical power system.” (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Boeing: possible electrical issue in some 737 Max aircraft

The company said that the new problem was unrelated to the flight-control system.

The 214-foot tall cranes work to unload their first cargo shipments at South Terminal at the Port of Everett on Thursday, April 8, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Renovated Port of Everett terminal gets first cargo customer

The 655-foot Westwood Columbia is the first ship to call at the newly upgraded South Terminal dock.

Project Roxy is a proposed 2.8 million square foot distribution center that would be built on a 75-acre parcel at the Cascade Industrial Center. The rendering depicts the proposed project at 4620 172nd Street in Arlington from a northwest perspective.
1,000 jobs: Amazon to open distribution center in Arlington

The company is the tenant behind Project Roxy, a $355 million building at the Cascade Industrial Center.

Edmonds grocery store workers may soon earn hazard pay

Some employers are required to increase wages by $4 an hour, the city council voted Tuesday.

Aerospace supplier with Everett site files for bankruptcy

Wichita-based TECT Aerospace filed for Chapter 11 and plans to sell an Everett manufacturing facility.

Washington's Lottery ticket display. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
Want to get lucky? Washington’s Lottery lists Top 10 stores

One of the luckiest retailers in the state was a Safeway in Everett, as measured by $1,000-plus winners.