Feature Story

X marks the spot

With sledgehammers striking against the wall of the 40-84 building in Everett, Wash., demolition began recently to ready the way toward construction of the new 777X Composite Wing Center.

As employees cheered "knock down that wall," Ray Conner, president and CEO of Commercial Airplanes; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell; Elizabeth Lund, vice president and general manager, 777 program, and Everett site leader; and Ron Coen, president for Local C, International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers District 751, lifted the heavy hammers and swung hard, pounding holes in the exterior brick wall.

Razing of the 40-83, 40-84 and 40-85 buildings -- among several buildings known as the “flattops” -- will occur this fall. The buildings, which were built in the late 1960s and 1970s, previously housed Engineering, Propulsions Systems Division and Supplier Management teams. The Composite Wing Center is one of several Everett projects underway to transform the campus into the world’s premier twin-aisle manufacturing and delivery center and position Boeing for future market competitiveness.

“These buildings are a testament to the people who have worked here, but it is time to move forward into the future and to the next generation of Boeing employees who will work here,” Lund said.

“It will allow the best-skilled, best-trained aircraft makers to build a truly
game-changing airplane.”

The buildings will be cleared in the coming months for construction of the new 40-58 building, a 1.3 million square-foot (120,000 square meters) composite wing manufacturing center scheduled for completion in May 2016. It will be home to three of the world’s largest autoclaves used to make composite wings. The finished wings will be attached to the 777X fuselage in final assembly next door.

Conner noted that Everett was a fitting site for the new Composite Wing Center: “This is the home of some of the greatest innovations in aerospace history and this will extend the legacy of aerospace in the Puget Sound region.”

Conner thanked those responsible for ensuring the 777X Composite Wing Center would be located in Everett, including political and community leaders as well as the members of the International Association of Machinists & Aerospace Workers.

The new building and the 777X program will be home to thousands of employees in the years ahead, Cantwell said. “It will allow the best-skilled, best-trained aircraft makers to build a truly game-changing airplane,” she said.

Cantwell, who is chair of the Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security, told the crowd that, according to the 777X program, the airplane is expected to provide airlines with 12 pecent savings on fuel consumption, and 10 percent savings on operating costs, compared to the competition.

Meanwhile, Inslee joked that he loves both sledge hammers and airplanes. “When you get to use one to build the other, it is a great day,” he said, noting Everett will be the center of composite manufacturing for decades to come.

Inslee added it would have been difficult for Bill Boeing to imagine the technologies of today nearly 100 years ago.

“Think of all we have done this past century," Inslee said, "and think of what we will do in this century."