Boeing breaks ground on propulsion facility

By Liz Segrist
lsegrist@scbiznews.com
Published Nov. 12, 2013

Boeing South Carolina broke ground Tuesday on its Propulsion South Carolina facility that will design and build the engine inlet for the 737 MAX in North Charleston.

The majority of Boeing’s propulsion system design and assembly has been done outside of Boeing for the last 15 years. The Propulsion South Carolina facility is an effort to bring some of the work in-house.

This rendering shows the concept for the Propulsion South Carolina facility, which broke ground this morning in North Charleston. (ImageBoeing Co.)

This rendering shows the concept for the Propulsion South Carolina facility, which broke ground this morning in North Charleston. (Image/Boeing Co.)


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“This is another success in Boeing South Carolina’s story,” said Nicole Piasecki, vice president and general manager of the Propulsion Systems Division of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “Today, we build on an already exciting history.”

Regarding questions of whether the 777X assembly would come to North Charleston if the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers votes down Boeing’s labor agreement in Washington state on Wednesday, Boeing South Carolina Vice President and General Manager Jack Jones repeatedly said “no comment.”

“In 36 hours, we’ll all know what’s on the table. Everybody, quite frankly, is waiting for tomorrow. ... We’ve got so much on our plate right now that we’re doing fine, and we’re very focused on our main plant,” Jones said.

The Washington State Legislature passed on Saturday a measure to extend nearly $9 billion in tax breaks for Boeing as part of its effort to lure the production of the 777X to the Puget Sound.

The union is scheduled to vote Wednesday on the labor agreement. Boeing officials have said the aerospace giant is willing to look elsewhere if the agreement is not approved.

“Congratulations to the Legislature in Washington. I think they did their part. Kudos to Gov. Inslee,” Jones said. “Now it’s up to the IAM to do their part, and we’re hoping for a positive outcome. We really are.”

The design of the engine inlet for the 737 MAX in North Charleston could lead to more propulsion projects, said Charlie Hix, director of Propulsion South Carolina. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
The design of the engine inlet for the 737 MAX in North Charleston could lead to more propulsion projects, said Charlie Hix, director of Propulsion South Carolina. (Photo/Liz Segrist)
As for the 737 MAX program in South Carolina, the local propulsion team will design and assemble its engine nacelle inlet. More than 1,500 orders have been placed from around the world for the new 737 MAX.

The first flight is scheduled for 2016, with the first delivery set for 2017. Final assembly will take place in Washington state.

For the 737, more than 11,000 orders have been placed thus far, with more than 2,000 on the job currently. More than 24,000 scheduled passengers’ flights are on 737s daily, accounting for roughly 30% of the world’s commercial flights.

“The 737 is the world’s workhorse,” Piasecki said.

The design of the engine inlet in North Charleston could lead to more propulsion projects — such as inlet engines, thrust reversers and exhaust systems — being built at the facility in the future, said Charlie Hix, director of Propulsion South Carolina.

Hix said the possibility of more projects coming to the facility hinges on whether the team performs flawlessly for the 737 MAX.

“So no pressure team, but we’ve got to do a perfect job on this,” Hix said. “I’m very confident that this team is up to the challenge.”

Boeing employees cheered and shook maracas, as executives, employees and local officials broke ground on the 225,000-square-foot facility adjacent to the Interiors Responsibility Center, South Carolina.

North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey and Charleston County Chairman Teddie Pryor said the municipalities will do whatever is necessary to build on the success and growth Boeing has brought to the region.

Construction on the facility is expected to take about a year. The site can accommodate potential future expansion up to 600,000 square feet.

The team of engineers, manufacturing and support personnel is currently at 50 employees and is planned to grow, Piasecki said.

Propulsion South Carolina, a unit of Boeing Commercial Airplanes Propulsion Systems Division, was established in May to build capability and capacity in integrated propulsion system design and assembly in order to support growth of future airplanes, beginning with the 737 MAX, according to Boeing.

The design of the 737 MAX will enable one of the “most fuel-efficient and quietest airplanes in the sky,” Hix said.

“Boeing’s investment in us is not an entitlement. It is a privilege. ... We must meet or beat the requirements of the 737 MAX program. We must deliver reliable, quality products on time and at cost,” Hix said. “If we can do that, I believe we will open up new doors for more work on future airplane programs.”

Reach Liz Segrist at 843-849-3119 or @lizsegrist.

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