Boeing Commercial Airplanes opened an airliner production facility last week in St. Louis, long a site for the manufacturing of military aircraft.
The 424,000-square-foot building will serve as site to manufacture parts of the 777X, the next generation of the massive, twin-engine wide-body jet Boeing first delivered 21 years ago.
The parts the St. Louis plant will produce are separate from the forward fuselage, engine nacelles and pylons that Spirit AeroSystems in Wichita manufactures for the Boeing 777 – and the 777X when production begins in 2017.
Specifically, St. Louis will produce the 777X’s wing edge and parts of its empennage, or tail, all made from composites.
Boeing’s St. Louis site, which it acquired from its 1997 merger with McDonnell Douglas, has largely been a center of production of military aircraft, including more than 12,000 fighter jets.
“With the opening of this new composite center, our well-trained, high-quality workforce is able to demonstrate its versatility and expertise, positioning our region for additional commercial and defense work in the future,” Bob Ciesla, vice president and 777X program manager, said in a statement.
Boeing spent $300 million on the new facility, which it said will have about 700 workers supporting it in the next four years. Final assembly of the 777X will be done at Boeing’s Everett, Wash., plant.
Unlike the current generation 777, the 777X will have a composite wing and new, GE9X engines that Boeing says will be 5 percent more efficient than other engines in its class.
The first 777X delivery is expected in 2020. Boeing so far has 320 orders and commitments for the airplane that will come in two variants: the 777-8, which will have seating for 350 passengers and a 9,300 nautical-mile range; and the 777-9, with seating for 400 passengers and a range of 8,200 nautical miles.