A Tuesday report in the Wall Street Journal said Boeing is planning to move its production of the 787 Dreamliner exclusively to its South Carolina plant.
The massive jetliner has been manufactured at Boeing’s production facilities in North Charleston as well as in Everett, Wash.
But during a July 29 call about the company’s earnings, Boeing President and CEO Dave Calhoun said the airline manufacturer was studying whether to shift all of the production to one of site while dealing a blow to the other facility.
Sources told the Wall Street Journal that Boeing has made the decision to consolidate manufacturing the widebody passenger jets in South Carolina.
A spokeswoman for Boeing declined to comment on the report. Instead, Elizabeth Holland cited a statement issued from the July call when airline officials said steps to cut expenses, including layoffs, could be coming as it continues to struggle financially during the coronavirus pandemic.
“We will prudently evaluate the most efficient way to build airplanes, including studying the feasibility of consolidating 787 production in one location,” Boeing officials said in July. “We will take into account a number of factors and keep an eye on future requirements as we think through the long-term health of our production system.
“Boeing remains committed to Washington state and South Carolina.”
When asked about the Wall Street Journal report at a Wednesday news conference, S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster said “stay tuned because South Carolina is open for business.”
Pressed on the issue of Boeing consolidating 787 Dreamliner production in North Charleston, McMaster told reporters “we’ll talk about that announcement when it’s official.”
Another South Carolina lawmaker was more direct about the report.
“Great to hear the entire 787 Dreamliner production line is moving to South Carolina to drive even more economic activity in the Palmetto State,” U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, a Laurens County Republican, said on Twitter. “South Carolina is proud to have a company like Boeing continue to make our state home.”
Not all politicians were as enthusiastic about Boeing’s potential decision.
“Boeing’s decision to pull its 787 production out of Washington state is shortsighted and misplaced,” U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-Washington, said in a news release. “As the economy comes back and air travel returns, I will fight to bring 787 production back to Everett.”
To date, final assembly on the 787 Dreamliner is done in South Carolina. But fewer will be built in the near future.
In April, Boeing said it would make 10 of the widebody passenger jets per month this year, and that number will drop to seven per month in 2022 — with the hope that production will increase beyond then.
But in July, Calhoun said production would drop to six per month in 2021. That’s when he opened the door to consolidating production to one facility.
“With this lower rate profile, we will also need to evaluate the most efficient way to produce the 787, including studying the feasibility of consolidating production in one location,” Calhoun said.
The ability of the South Carolina plant to accommodate the size of the 787s might have been a determining factor in Boeing’s decision.
The airline’s largest 787 can only be built at the North Charleston site because it’s fuselage is too large for the vehicle that transports parts to the Everett plant, the Seattle Times reported.
Information on when the consolidation will be announced was not available, and there was no word on when production would move exclusively to South Carolina.
At the beginning of the year, Boeing South Carolina had nearly 7,000 workers on staff. But that number is likely to have changed after the airline giant laid off 6,770 employees across the country in May, reducing its workforce by 10 percent.
There was no word if consolidating 787 production in South Carolina would create any more jobs at the North Charleston facility.
(The State staff reporter Maayan Schechter contributed to this report.)
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