Boeing S.C. expansion plans look to next 30 years

Dreamliners move down the production line at Boeing S.C.'s 787 manufacturing plant in North Charleston. (Photo by Kim McManus)
Dreamliners move down the production line at Boeing S.C.'s 787 manufacturing plant in North Charleston. (Photo by Kim McManus)
By Liz Segrist
Published Dec. 26, 2013

The Boeing Co. is planning to expand its presence in the Lowcountry, possibly with another 787 Dreamliner production line, according to a recent regulatory filing.

Boeing filed a notice with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the state office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management to expand its North Charleston footprint by nearly doubling its 1.2-million-square-foot 787 Dreamliner final assembly building to the south beginning next year. Plans also call for building up to seven more manufacturing buildings, additional office buildings and a third paint hangar.

In the second stage of construction, Boeing plans to build 3.4 million square feet of manufacturing buildings and 400,000 square feet of administration buildings, according to the filing. Building is expected to begin on that phase sometime after 2016.

The plans also call for nine more slots on the flightline — for a total of 16 — where the planes sit post-assembly.

Boeing filed the application Dec. 20 for a permit to fill in 151 acres of wetlands. The filing also discusses how Boeing plans to persevere wetlands elsewhere.

“The overall project is described as the Boeing South Carolina Expansion Program and is expected to meet both the existing and the future development needs of the Boeing Company’s North Charleston campus for the next 30 years,” the filing reads.

Earlier this month, Boeing leased 468 acres, up from the originally planned 267 acres, amid the race for the 777X site. Boeing South Carolina Vice President Jack Jones said the land is for future expansion options during a Dec. 19 news conference.

“Now that we have the land, there is no plan on the side or some secret. We’ve got the land. We’ve got the flexibility, and that’s where we are,” Jones said. “We’re ready to go if our corporation says we want you to do ‘x’ work.”

Boeing shares 787 Dreamliner final assembly between its Lowcountry and facilities in Everett, Wash. The Lowcountry operations will always build the aft and midbody for all Dreamliner models, beginning with the 787-9 next fall, Jones said.  The 787-9 is currently assembled in Everett, Wash.

As for the 787-10, the final assembly site will be announced in the first quarter of 2014, Jones said.

Boeing is currently producing roughly 10 Dreamliners a month, but has not said how many of those are coming from South Carolina. It plans to produce up to 12 airplanes a month by 2016 and up to 14 a month by 2019. The North Charleston midbody facility is working to make operations more efficient in preparation of the rate increase, Jones said.

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

Follow more aerospace news at the Flightlines aerospace blog.

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