Key 7E7 supplier may not move here

  • By Bryan Corliss
  • Tuesday, July 27, 2004 9:00pm
  • Business

V ought isn’t coming.

That’s the assessment of the people who have been pursuing Vought Aircraft Industries, the Dallas-based supplier that will provide a big chunk of Boeing Co.’s new 7E7 jetliner.

But there could be a little good news as well: Boeing workers could very well end up doing the work in Everett that everyone thought Vought was going to do.

A little quick recap for everyone who’s coming in late:

Ever since Boeing announced it was building the Dreamliner in Everett, the conventional wisdom has been that the major suppliers working on the program would end up with a major workforce presence here – perhaps even their own factories or subassembly plants.

The thinking has been that the suppliers would end up doing something similar to what Goodrich Corp. does now for Boeing’s existing airplane programs. Goodrich manufacturers landing gear components across North America, then ships the parts to a final assembly factory in Everett. Workers put the pieces together and deliver the landing gear to Boeing.

Boeing is leaving that decision up to the suppliers, but executives have hinted at times that they expected some sort of pre-assembly arrangement similar to Goodrich’s.

Most of the rumors have centered on Vought, which is teaming with Italian manufacturer Alenia to supply a big part of the aft end of the 7E7. However, representatives say the company is fully capable of putting together fully “stuffed” sections – body sections with all the wiring and hydraulics installed – and shipping them cross-country to Everett.

Last week at the Farnborough Air Show in England, Vought chief executive Tom Risley told a Seattle newspaper that his company is in fact looking to establish a new 7E7 pre-assembly center – but not in Everett. In an announcement that caught other Vought executives by surprise, the boss said the work wouldn’t be done in Texas, either.

And it might not be done by Vought.

Before Farnborough, Boeing 7E7 program chief Mike Bair said his company still was in talks with the major suppliers over some of the details about who will do what.

The Vought-Alenia tail section is one example, he said, with the discussions centering on who will put the major parts together. Some are coming from Italy, some from Texas and some from Boeing’s Fredrickson plant in Pierce County.

The best solution might be to do the work in Everett, either in a new building belonging to the suppliers or in some of Boeing’s vacant manufacturing space.

If the work is done in a Boeing building, it’s almost certainly going to be done by workers wearing Boeing shirts, Bair said.

If the work does come back in-house, it won’t mean a big influx of extra workers, Bair warned. But it would require some additional workers.

John Monroe, point man for the Snohomish County Economic Development Council’s aerospace efforts, predicts that’s exactly what will happen. It will be a relatively simple matter to bolt and glue the composite body parts together, he said.

“Would you build a factory to do just that when you’ve got trained Boeing people to do that stuff?” he asked. “It would have been totally surprising to see Vought come here to do that.”

* Speaking of total surprises, it appears that at least a fair portion of the current and former Boeing workers who received checks last week as part of a stock bonus plan didn’t get any information to explain what the checks were about.

Carmahn Ghia Standifer-Air de Cour of Marysville was one of them. The laid-off worker said she got her check a couple of days before a Boeing company letter arrived to explain that the dollar amount on the check was what was left over after the company used her Share Value Trust bonus to buy as many shares of Boeing stock as possible.

But perhaps the biggest surprise was the size of the check, she said – $1.30.

Reporter Bryan Corliss: 425-339-3454 or corliss@heraldnet.com.

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