EVERETT — The Boeing Co. will indeed construct a 737 completion center in China, in cooperation with that country’s jetliner manufacturer, Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC), Boeing confirmed Wednesday.
“Boeing, COMAC and Chinese government officials are working toward a final business agreement and will announce the facility’s location and timing of first deliveries at a later date,” Boeing said in a statement quietly posted on its website.
COMAC is a potential Boeing rival. Though entry into service is several years away, it is developing a 737 competitor, the C919.
When Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Boeing factory here Wednesday, he and company executives spoke at length of the Chicago-based aerospace giant’s long relationship with the world’s most populous state.
And behind the scenes, Boeing confirmed in some detail a 300-jet sale to airlines and lessors there.
But nothing was said about the completion center, which had been reported by some media outlets.
The plant will handle “interiors completion, paint and delivery of Boeing 737 aircraft to Chinese customers,” Boeing said later in the website statement. “The joint venture facility will significantly expand Boeing’s collaboration with China’s aviation industry while also enabling future production rate increases at Boeing’s 737 final assembly factory in Renton, Wash. This China-based facility will not reduce 737 Program employment in Washington State.”
That last point was made earlier in the week by Boeing Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner in an email to workers. So far, the assurance has been ignored by some politicians and union leaders who say it’s a step onto a slippery slope of job loss and technology transference.
“The more capacity created outside Washington, the harder it makes it for aerospace workers in Washington to compete,” said Ron Holden, president of District Lodge 751 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM). The union held protests during Xi’s visit, near the Everett plant and in Renton, where 737s are assembled.
“Part of what we’ve done here is to make these lines the most efficient aircraft production lines in the world,” Holden said after Xi’s factory tour. “As we give that process and technologies to other countries around the word, we’re creating our own competitors.”
Critics find the proposed completion center especially ironic given that COMAC is developing the C919.
Boeing counters that a fourth of its deliveries go to Chinese customers and that it has to engage the original-equipment manufacturers there. “To be competitive in that marketplace, it’s important we become part of the fabric of their industry,” Conner told The Seattle Times.
In Boeing’s written statement, he said: “We are bringing the Boeing 737 closer to our Chinese customers, supporting rising 737 production rates and enhancing our access to China’s dynamic and fast-growing aviation market. The 737 will be a cornerstone of the Chinese fleet for years to come, and we look forward to delivering 737s to Chinese customers in China.”
Boeing’s statement on Wednesday also said it will broaden its relationship with Aviation Industry Corp. of China (AVIC), a supplier to Boeing and Airbus, “to further advance AVIC’s manufacturing capabilities by adding major component and assembly work packages; strengthening leadership; and developing AVIC’s broad aviation infrastructure and business practices, including supply chain management.”
After a 48-hour visit with events in Everett, Seattle, Redmond and Tacoma, Xi left Western Washington from Paine Field Thursday morning, en route to Washington, D.C., and a summit with President Barack Obama.
His Air China Boeing 747-400 took off around 9:19 a.m.
Herald writer Chris Winters contributed.