Viewpoint

Boeing’s Big News Day

Things are busy, busy, busy over at Boeing right now. As a matter of fact, the airframer is not shy about telling us - putting out no fewer than four announcements on Friday alone (January 11, 2013).

The big news of the day was the commencement of the dredging of a waterway near Boeing’s former Plant 2 facility in Washington, which the company described as “a major step” in its commitment to restore the natural habitat along the Lower Duwamish Waterway. (The FAA announces a review of the 787’s critical systems, covering design, manufacture and assembly; Boeing boss Jim McNerney says the company is looking forward to participating in the joint review.)

According to Boeing, the Plant 2 work kicks off one of five “early-action” projects being supervised by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). During the next three years, over 152,000m3 of sediment will be removed and clean sand added to restore the natural shoreline. This will create around two hectares of wildlife habitat which will be particularly important for juvenile salmon getting accustomed to living in salt water before their migration to the Pacific Ocean. (McNerney says Boeing stands “100 per cent” behind the integrity of the 787 and the “rigorous process” which led to its certification and entry-into-service.)

Boeing’s Plant 2 project will work around the salmon’s schedule, with activities in the water taking place through mid-February and restarting in early August when the baby fish are not migrating. Dredging will occur 24/7 to make the most of the narrow window of opportunity. (McNerney says he believes the review will “underscore” the confidence of Boeing, its customers and the travelling public in the “reliability, safety and performance” of the 787.)

According to Dennis McLerran, US EPA region 10 administrator, the clean-up of the Duwamish represents an opportunity to shape Seattle’s future and that Boeing’s early work demonstrates “what a good neighbour can do when it’s committed to a community and its people”. (FAA administrator Michael Huerta expresses confidence that the 787 is safe, but says “we need to have a complete understanding of what is happening”.)

But enough of the Duwamish - moving on, moving on, there’s a lot to talk about. Indeed, on Friday Boeing also announced the purchase of new premises in Salt Lake County, Utah, which will enhance its composite manufacturing capabilities. The facility at West Jordan will focus on the fabrication of composite horizontal stabiliser components for the 787-9. (The FAA says the 787 review “will not focus exclusively on individual events”, but that there will be “an emphasis” on the electrical power and distribution system.)

Boeing’s new 850,000ft2 site is only 20 miles from its existing facility in Salt Lake City, and this proximity will help to optimise the fabrication-to-assembly process. A recruitment programme will begin immediately to fill 100 new roles, starting with project managers and engineers before moving on to production positions. The design of the building’s interior will be undertaken by local company Sitts & Hill; project completion will take two years. (The 787 review is expected to begin in Seattle but the FAA says it “may expand to other locations” over the next few months.)

Oh, and there was also something about the Dreamliner.

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