Boeing officially consolidating all production of 787 Dreamliner in South Carolina

Boeing made it official Thursday, saying it is consolidating all of its production on the 787 Dreamliner in its South Carolina plant.

The massive jetliner had been manufactured at Boeing’s production facilities in North Charleston as well as in Everett, Washington. By 2021, the widebody plane will only be built in South Carolina, officials said in a news release.

“As our customers manage through the unprecedented global pandemic, to ensure the long-term success of the 787 program, we are consolidating 787 production in South Carolina,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Stan Deal said in the release.

Since 2010, final assembly on the 787 Dreamliner has been done in South Carolina.

The decision comes as Boeing moves to reduce expenses to preserve liquidity and reposition certain lines of business to become more efficient for the long term, according to the release.

The move was welcomed by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster.

“South Carolina is open for business. We are committed to helping Boeing — and businesses large and small — grow and prosper in our state,” McMaster said in a news release. “Today’s announcement is a testament to our hardworking people, and to the fact that companies know they can find long-term success right here in South Carolina.”

U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, who represents the Charleston area, echoed the governor’s statement.

“Companies recognize that South Carolina is a hospitable place to grow and expand their businesses,” Cunningham said in a news release. “I wholeheartedly welcome Boeing’s planned expansion in the Lowcountry and the hundreds of jobs for hardworking South Carolinians that will eventually come along with it.”

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee was critical of the move, and threatened to review any tax breaks Boeing receives.

Boeing officials said they chose the South Carolina facility over the one in Washington state because the North Charleston site is set up to build the larger 787-10 model.

The airline’s largest 787 can only be built at the North Charleston site because its fuselage is too large for the vehicle that transports parts to the Everett plant, the Seattle Times previously reported.

Production of the smaller 787 models will continue in Everett until the program transitions to the previously-announced rate of six airplanes a month in 2021, according to the release.

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.

But in July, Boeing President and CEO Dave 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.

Boeing examined the impacts and benefits to customers, suppliers, employees and the overall health of the production system, and the analysis confirmed the feasibility and efficiency gains created by consolidation, according to the release.

“We recognize that production decisions can impact our teammates, industry and our community partners,” Deal said. “We extensively evaluated every aspect of the program and engaged with our stakeholders on how we can best partner moving forward. These efforts will further refine 787 production and enhance the airplane’s value proposition.”

The moves are being made as Boeing continues to struggle financially in a airline market affected by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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. Boeing said it is assessing potential impacts to employment in South Carolina and will communicate any changes directly to employees.

The Washington state plant is not being shuttered.

“Our team in Puget Sound will continue to focus on efficiently building our 737, 747, 767 and 777 airplane families,” Deal said. “The Boeing 787 is the tremendous success it is today thanks to our great teammates in Everett. They helped give birth to an airplane that changed how airlines and passengers want to fly”

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