CEO says Boeing committed to building 737s in Renton

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by GLENN FARLEY / KING5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @GlennFarley

KING5.com

Posted on March 5, 2010 at 4:14 PM

Updated Friday, Mar 5 at 6:52 PM

EVERETT - Jim Albaugh, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said Friday the company is committed to making the 737 airliner in Renton for a very long time.

For more than 40 years, the Renton-built Boeing 737 was one of the most popular airliners in the world. But now it's getting competition. Canadian transportation giant Bombardier is building a new jet with up to 149 seats.

Speaking to KING5 News, Albaugh said the aircraft manufacturer wants to keep the 737 assembly line in Renton if it can reach agreements with its labor unions. For years it has been assumed that the 737 line would eventually be moved north to Everett, but Albaugh said that's not in the plans.

Albaugh said the company will make a decision later this year on whether to replace the engines on 737s with new-generation engines that have higher fuel efficiencies or build a new aircraft.

"We are going to re-engine or go with a new airplane," said Albaugh. "It would be crazy for us to walk from all the learning we have in Renton and go to another site... We've got to be competitive in how we build in Renton."

But even years before Boeing decided to move some of its Dreamliner production to South Carolina, the assumption has been that Boeing would move its 737 production to Everett.
 
Charleston is where Boeing will build three 787s each month, splitting production with Everett. Albaugh says this isn't going to happen on other programs.

"But do we have a strategy where we have two lines everyplace? That's not a strategy we've talked about. That's a strategy that would cost us a lot to implement," he said.

But the company's new plan to keep more jet building in-house is still contingent on labor peace with the Machinists Union.

The company and the union have about two-and-a-half years to figure that out.

Jim Albaugh, who used to run Boeing's military business, says if Boeing wins the contract to build the new tanker for the Air Force, most of the work would take place in Everett, including installing refueling booms and other military hardware.

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