Boeing considers faster assembly rate for 777X

EVERETT — The Boeing Co. is considering making its new 777X jetliner at a historically high rate for a mini-jumbo airplane.

The company is making sure it can make about 125 777Xs a year if demand is that high. That would be a 25 percent increase over the production rate for its 777 classic.

The push past 100 airplanes a year is “tentatively scheduled to begin in 2021,” according to a document prepared earlier this month by the state’s Department of Ecology.

However, Boeing has not committed to making that many 777X jetliners.

The Ecology document is part of an environmental permit application filed by Boeing.

“As part of our normal business planning, the 777X program needs to anticipate in any and all future possible requirements,” Boeing 777X program spokesman Scott Lefeber said. “Part of this evaluation requires Boeing to take action years in advance to ensure environmental permits, tools and parts are complete and ready to support our potential requirements.”

Right now, the company does not plan on taking production rates past the current 777 rate of 100 a year, or 8.3 a month.

Boeing aims to start low-rate production of the 777X in 2017. It plans to first deliver the larger 777-9 in 2020. The 777-8 would follow within a few years later.

The Chicago-based company is considering offering a freighter version based on the shorter 777-8 model. It could be available 18 to 24 months after first delivery of the 777-8, according to the company.

The number of workers at Boeing’s Everett plant, where the 777X will be assembled, could increase by as much as 3,000 due to the new airplane program, according to the Ecology document.

About 40,000 people currently work at the Everett facility, which is adjacent to Paine Field, according to the company.

Boeing does not publicly say how many people work on specific airplane programs. However, a study commissioned by the Washington Aerospace Partnership estimated that the 777 classic program directly employed 12,100 people — including 7,100 in production and maintenance — in 2012.

Executives have said they plan to reduce 777 production as it ramps up 777X production. Speaking to investment analysts last month, Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg confirmed that 777 production is slated to step down to seven planes a month by 2017.

The actual output could be less than the production rate, which reflects how fast the giant airliners move along the final assembly line in Everett, said Boeing vice president Elizabeth Lund earlier this year. Lund is the 777’s program manager.

Output can be lowered by leaving a slot on the assembly line empty. The empty slots are called blanks.

Many industry analysts have speculated that Boeing will need to further cut production to 6 or even 5 planes a month.

Boeing will have to make a decision next year on how many 777s it wants to make, when it begins ordering parts for 2017 production.

Dan Catchpole: 425-339-3454; dcatchpole@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @dcatchpole.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

Dan Bates / The Herald
When Seattle Genetics founder, Clay Siegall lost his father while in college, he switched from studying for an MD to studying for a PhD., and a goal to treat cancer patients.  His efforts are paying off in lives.
Bothell biotech CEO resigns after domestic-violence allegation

Clay Siegall co-founded Seagen, which develops therapies for cancer patients. He’s accused of attacking his wife.

FILE - A sign at a Starbucks location in Havertown, Pa., is seen April 26, 2022. Starbucks says it will pay travel expenses for U.S. employees to access abortion or gender-confirmation procedures if those services aren't available within 100 miles of a worker’s home. The Seattle coffee chain says, Monday, May 16, 2022, the benefit will also be available to dependents of employees enrolled in its health care coverage. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, file)
Starbucks will cover travel for workers seeking abortions

Amazon and Tesla also will provide the benefit. Walmart and Facebook have stayed silent.

A barista pours steamed milk into a red paper cup while making an espresso drink at a Starbucks coffee shop in the Pike Place Market, Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2015, in Seattle. It's as red as Santa's suit, a poinsettia blossom or a loud Christmas sweater. Yet Starbucks' minimalist new holiday coffee cup has set off complaints that the chain is making war on Christmas. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Interfaith group asks Starbucks to drop vegan milk surcharge

They say the practice amounts to a tax on people who have embraced plant-based lifestyles.

FILE - In this Monday, March 1, 2021 file photo, The first Alaska Airlines passenger flight on a Boeing 737-9 Max airplane takes off on a flight to San Diego from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. A Boeing pilot involved in testing the 737 Max jetliner was indicted Thursday, Oct. 14,2021 by a federal grand jury on charges of deceiving safety regulators who were evaluating the plane, which was later involved in two deadly crashes. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Alaska Airlines to keep canceling flights at high level for weeks

Flight cancellations since April will continue. The chaos has been damaging for Seattle’s hometown airline.

FILE - An airplane flies past the Boeing logo on the company's headquarters in Chicago, on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2001. Boeing Co., a leading defense contractor and one of the world's two dominant manufacturers of airline planes, is expected to move its headquarters from Chicago to the Washington, D.C., area, according to two people familiar with the matter. The decision could be announced as soon as later Thursday, May 5, 2022, according to one of the people. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)
Boeing expected to move headquarters from Chicago to DC area

The move would put Boeing executives close to their key customer, the Pentagon, and the FAA.

This 3D rendering shows Sila's 6000-foot facility in Moses Lake, to be used to manufacture lithium-ion anode battery materials. (Business Wire)
New factory in Moses Lake will bring hundreds of new jobs

The plant will manufacture lithium-ion anode battery materials for cars and cellphones.

Dr. David Kirtley at the new Helion headquarters, Antares, in Everett, Washington on Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022  (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Helion Energy: New Everett company has the sun in its eyes

The firm is the winner of a new award by Economic Alliance Snohomish County, called Opportunity Lives Here.

Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring is this year's winner of the Henry M. Jackson Award given by Economic Alliance Snohomish County. Photographed in Marysville, Washington on April 25, 2022. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Jon Nehring: Longtime Marysville mayor who’s nurtured growth

He’s helped steer the city’s transformation and is winner of the Jackson Award by Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

Monti Ackerman, recipient of the John Fluke Award, is pictured Thursday, April 28, 2022, outside his office in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Monti Ackerman: A passionate volunteer and calculator whiz

The Fortive executive is the winner of this year’s Fluke Award by Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

Rep. Mike Sells, D-38, is the recipient of this year's Henry M. Jackson award. The award recognizes a visionary leader who through partnership, tenacity and a strong commitment to community has created lasting opportunities to improve quality of life and positively impact the regional economy. Photographed in Everett, Washington on April 29, 2022.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Rep. Mike Sells: He fought for WSU Everett and worker rights

The retiring legislator is the recipient of the Floyd Award from Economic Alliance Snohomish County.

People sit outside the recently opened Amazon Go facility Wednesday, April 27, 2022, in Mill Creek, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Cashier-less Amazon Go buzzing in Mill Creek grand opening

Locals came to check out the high-tech store, with $3 avocado toast and cameras watching customers’ every move.

Joel Bervell (Courtesy photo)
TikTok med student @joelbervell named top Emerging Leader

Joel Bervell, who highlights disparities in medicine, took top honors at an event for 12 rising stars in Snohomish County.