Despite Chronic Issues, Boeing Shifting All Dreamliner Production To South Carolina

Is this really a “win,” though?

Crony capitalist aerospace engineering firm Boeing will manufacture all of its 787 Dreamliner aircraft at its heavily taxpayer-subsidized facility in North Charleston, South Carolina in the future, according to an exclusive report in The Wall Street Journal.

We reported months ago that Boeing was looking at consolidating its 787 production facilities – and would soon choose between its unionized plant in Everett, Washington or its “right-to-work” plant in the Palmetto State.

At the time, industry analysts believed North Charleston wound win out because of its cheaper labor and logistics – namely the fact that the larger 787-10 variant of the Dreamliner “is currently too big to transport to Everett.”

As a result, defense analyst Jeffrey Frankston wrote that it would be “easier to shift everything to Charleston than pay costs to modify infrastructure and transportation.”

Reporters Andrew Tangel and Doug Cameron confirmed the company is planning to announce this decision “as soon as this week” – but they added it “wasn’t clear over what period of time the consolidation would play out” or how many employees would be impacted by the decision.

Nor is it clear whether South Carolina taxpayers – who have already shelled out more than $1 billion to Boeing over the past decade – will be on the hook for any additional incentives in connection with this “win.”

Also, even after the consolidation South Carolina’s plant is unlikely to gain anything from the announcement.

How come?

Well, this time a year ago Boeing was cranking out fourteen Dreamliners a month – with production evenly split between its Everett and North Charleston facilities.

Thanks to the collapse of global air travel accompanying the coronavirus pandemic, demand for planes has plummeted – although it is worth recalling that Boeing was already scaling back production of its 787 Dreamliner in response to reduced demand prior to the pandemic hitting.

When all is said and done, the company plans on producing only six planes a month in 2021 – meaning its South Carolina plant (which has already endured one round of layoffs) will still be making fewer planes.

Also, workmanship issues that have dogged this facility for years continue to plague production. Earlier this month, in fact, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed it was “investigating manufacturing flaws affecting certain Boeing 787 jetliners.”

As we noted in our coverage of that investigation, Shoddy production has been an issue at Boeing’s South Carolina facilities for years.

John Barnett – a former quality control manager for Boeing – told reporter Nadia Daly of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in January that he saw “serious problems” with the workmanship at the South Carolina plant.

“I haven’t seen a plane out of Charleston yet that I would consider safe and airworthy,” Barnett said.

Meanwhile one 787 customer – Qatar Airways – refused to accept any 787 Dreamliners manufactured in South Carolina, requiring Boeing to provide it with Dreamliners manufactured at its Everett, Washington facility.

Given these problems, Boeing may decide to relocate higher-skilled workers from Washington State to South Carolina – which could displace potentially hundreds of Palmetto State workers. It could also create more favorable conditions for unionization, as the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) has been looking to establish itself in North Charleston for years.

Needless to say, this news outlet will keep close tabs on these developments … just as we keep close tabs on all crony capitalist misadventures in the Palmetto State.




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