The gantry system is tested at the new 777x Composite Wing Center at Paine Field in Everett.

The gantry system is tested at the new 777x Composite Wing Center at Paine Field in Everett.

What 777X plant means for Boeing

Boeing will celebrate its past in grand fashion at its centennial in July, but its future was on full display last month at the Everett plant.

That’s where the aerospace manufacturer unveiled its new Composite Wing Center, a $1 billion, 1.3 million-square-foot facility to build carbon-fiber wings for the 777X jetliner.

The Composite Wing Center is seen as key to the 777X program, because it will be where the jetliner’s innovative carbon-fiber composite materials wings will be manufactured.

The building will initially house one autoclave, essentially a giant pressure oven used to cook and harden the carbon-fiber wings. It is designed to eventually hold three autoclaves. Portland, Oregon-based Hoffman Construction started work on the building in October 2014. At its peak, an estimated 1,200 workers put in time on the building; a total of 4.2 million hours went into the construction.

The center is huge. It’s 27 acres of space under one roof or the equivalent of 24 football fields, according to Boeing.

To get a sense of the size, just look at the construction materials: 31,000 tons of steel, 340.2 million pounds of concrete and 486 miles of electrical cable.

The autoclave is one of the world’s largest by volume: It can hold more than 200,000 14-inch pizzas.

Here are some questions and answers on the Composite Wing Center and what it means for the future of the company:

Why is this such a big deal?

Carbon-fiber composites are being used more and more in manufacturing, from cars like BMWs to planes. Boeing’s 787, used more composite material than any other commercial airplane when it was launched in 2004.

Carbon-fiber composites are prized for a high strength-to-weight ratio. They don’t easily fatigue or corrode like metal.

They’re easy to mold and shape; bonded structures are smoother and more aerodynamic than those that are riveted.

Carbon-fiber composites require special storage and handling and expensive equipment to create. They require a skilled work force to create and repair. And composites are expensive.

Why is this important to the 777X?

The 777X will use even more carbon-fiber composites than the 787. With the composite material wings, the 777X is expected to boast lower fuel consumption and operating costs than the competition.

That’s appealing to customers who above all else want an aircraft that is efficient to operate. With this giant new conclave, Boeing will be able to build wings that have fewer pieces.

Has work started in the center?

Boeing opened the Composite Wing Center on schedule in May. But the company doesn’t expect to begin actual production until 2017. The first delivery of the 777X is targeted for 2020.

So far, Boeing has received 320 orders for 777X planes and commitments from six customers worldwide.

How many people will it employ?

Boeing’s not saying, at least not right now. However, according to site selection documents sent by Boeing to various states in late 2013, the 777X line is expected to have about 3,250 workers in 2018, peak at 8,500 in 2024 and scale down to about 7,250 by 2026. The wing production center will have more than 2,000 workers, according to those documents.

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

With the Olympic mountains in the background, the first passenger flight by Alaska Airlines Flight 2878 departs for Portland on opening day of the Paine Field Terminal on Monday, March 4, 2019 in Everett, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Alaska Airlines stalls plan for extra flights in Everett

Business has been sluggish, but the airline says it will offer 12 flights a day at Paine Field in the new year.

In this May 2020 photo, garbage cans line a residential street on trash pickup day in Mukilteo. In November, voters will weigh in on whether the city should encourage more high density housing. (Sue Misao / Herald file)
Mukilteo asks for input on housing density, and it’s complicated

Here’s a guide to what voters should know about the advisory ballot measure. What does it actually do?

People hold signs in protest of the vaccine mandate after Boeing announced it would terminate workers who do not comply on Friday, Oct. 15, 2021 in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Some Boeing workers protest in Everett over vaccine mandate

The Boeing Company announced earlier this week that its workers must be vaccinated by Dec. 8.

FILE - In this file photo dated Monday, March 11, 2019, rescuers work at the scene of an Ethiopian Airlines plane crash south of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  The number of deaths in major air crashes around the globe fell by more than half in 2019 according to a report released Wednesday Jan. 1, 2020, by the aviation consultancy To70, revealing the worst crash for the year was an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 MAX on March 10 that lost 157 lives. (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, FILE)
Former Boeing test pilot pleads not guilty in 737 Max case

He’s the first person to be charged with a crime in connection with the Indonesia and Ethiopia crashes.

FILE - In this March 14, 2019 file photo, Ethiopian relatives of crash victims mourn at the scene where the Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 crashed shortly after takeoff killing all 157 on board, near Bishoftu, south-east of Addis Ababa, in Ethiopia. Relatives of some of the passengers who died in the crash will mark the two-year anniversary of the disaster on Wednesday, March 10, 2021, by seeking a reversal of government orders that let Boeing 737 Max jets fly again.  (AP Photo/Mulugeta Ayene, File)
Boeing pilot involved in Max testing is indicted in Texas

He’s accused of giving the FAA false information about systems that played a role in two deadly crashes.

Top (L-R): Kim Daughtry, Steve Ewing. Bottom (L-R): Gary Petershagen, Marcus Tageant.
Developers court Lake Stevens council incumbents with over $20K

Over half of the campaign dollars for four candidates came from people tied to real estate or property development.

Traffic drives in view of a massive Boeing Co. production plant, where images of jets decorate the hangar doors, Friday, April 23, 2021, in Everett, Wash. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
Boeing says workers must get the COVID vaccine by Dec. 8

“Compliance with these requirements is a condition of employment,” says an internal company presentation.

The Boeing 737 Max 10 airplane landing at Boeing Field in Seattle on June 18. (Chona Kasinger / Bloomberg)
Boeing ramps up 737 Max but 787 deliveries are still blocked

Boeing last month maintained its steady trickle of sales as it navigates the aviation downturn.

A handful of Northwest Union Carpenter members picket in front of the new Marysville civic center construction site on the sixth day of a region wide union carpenter strike on Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021 in Marysville, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Carpenters strike ends with new contract and a $10 raise

Roughly 500 union members were working on projects in Snohomish County. It was among the largest strikes in 18 years.

FILE - In this March 20, 2020, file photo, the Amazon campus outside the company headquarters in Seattle sits nearly deserted on an otherwise sunny and warm afternoon. Amazon said Monday, Oct. 11, 2021 it will allow many tech and corporate workers to continue working remotely indefinitely, as long as they can commute to the office when necessary. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Amazon to allow employees to work remotely indefinitely

Although most cannot work remotely because their duties include grabbing orders and delivering them.

With new owners demanding the Grand Apartments' longtime residents leave, Stephen Teixeira, 52, documents issues at the Rockefeller Avenue building, on Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021 in Everett, Washington.  (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Life at the Grand Apartments in Everett is now a ‘nightmare’

Longtime residents say the new owner, an investment company, is trying to bully them out of the building.

Bob Martin, 80, owner of the The Stag Barber and Styling in Snohomish. (Andrea Brown / The Herald)
$90,000 fine doesn’t stop defiant Snohomish barber

Bob Martin appealed a state penalty for ignoring coronavirus rules and lost. It has not cut into his business.