Boeing Commercial Airplanes 737 Manufacturing Site
The Airplane Programs manufacturing site in Renton, Wash., has been home to many of commercial aviation's most renowned airplanes, including the 707, 727, 737 and 757. Today, employees at the 278-acre site, which encompasses 4.3 million square feet (380,902 square meters) of building space, produce Next-Generation 737 airplanes.
The Next-Generation 737 family -- the newest, most-advanced jetliner in its class -- entered service in 1998 and is offered in four sizes. The family includes the 737-600, -700, -800 and -900ER. Other models include the 737-700C convertible freighter, the Boeing Business Jet, and the company's newest 737 derivative, the P-8A Poseidon, the world's most advanced long-range maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft being built for the U.S. Navy.
Boeing began manufacturing operations in Renton in 1941 to build a reconnaissance aircraft for the United States Navy - the XPPB-1 Sea Ranger, an experimental flying boat. A site was chosen on the marshy shores of Lake Washington a few miles southeast of Seattle, on the Cedar River where, under Boeing supervision, the river was diverted and a 95-acre, 2.3 million square-foot (215,353 square-meter) plant was built.
Military production carried Renton through the rest of the 1940s. In 1952, Boeing made a $16 million gamble developing a prototype that would change commercial aviation history -- the Boeing 367-80, nicknamed the "Dash 80." Two different production aircraft were developed from the Dash 80; the military KC-135 Stratotanker and the world's first successful commercial jetliner -- the 707, which established Boeing as a leader in the aviation industry and ushered in the new age of commercial jet transportation.
After 37 years of production, the last 707 rolled off the assembly line on April 30, 1991. Commercial production ceased in 1978, but the airframe continued to be built for 13 years. These airframes were converted into the E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (known as AWACS) aircraft, as well as the VC-137 series, which was used by the President of the United States and known as Air Force One.
With the company's newfound success in commercial jet transports, Boeing continued new airplane development and during the 1960s introduced two of the most popular jetliners in aviation history -- the 727 and the 737. The popularity and economy of the three-engine 727 helped it become the world's most-ordered jetliner of its time. It was eventually surpassed by the 737.
The largest of the Renton site's final assembly buildings originally was intended for 707 and 727 assembly and later for the Boeing Supersonic Transport, which was never built. The building was also used to refurbish the first four production 747s, which were assembled at the Everett, Wash., facility. When completed, the 737 final assembly building was the world's largest building by volume - a record now held by Everett's final assembly building.
In 2003, Boeing began to consolidate Renton site operations, moving many of the people who design, build and support the Boeing 737 airplane program into renovated factory space adjacent to 737 final assembly. This colocation promotes greater efficiency, communication and collaboration. Approximately 41 percent of the covered floor space was reduced, resulting in a smaller footprint for the Renton site. The two final assembly lines now used to manufacture commercial Next-Generation 737s cover only 760,000 square feet (70,600 square meters).
Between 1982 and 2005, the Renton site also built and delivered 1,050 757s to customers around the world. In the history of commercial aviation, only seven commercial airplane programs have delivered more than 1,000 airplanes. Today, more than 1,030 757s are still in service. Known for its exceptional fuel efficiency and low noise levels, the 757 family includes the 757-200 and larger 757-300 passenger models, as well as a freighter based on the 757-200 fuselage.
The area where 757 wings once were built is now a third 737 final assembly line, opened in March 2008, to produce the P-8A Poseidon. This is the first time a military derivative aircraft is being built in-line on a moving line in Renton. By doing so, Commercial Airplanes and Integrated Defense Systems created a new business model to provide Boeing a competitive advantage using commercial platforms and production capability in military markets. The P-8A is intended to leverage value for the company's naval customers by building on the 737 Program's proven production efficiencies and airplane performance.
Other manufacturing production areas at the Renton site include 737 wing assembly and paint hangars. Boeing performs pre-flight tests on all 737s at the Renton Municipal Airport, located west of the main site, before they make their initial test flight. Following the test flight, the airplanes land at Boeing Field in Seattle where final preparations are made for delivery to customers.
As of Nov. 1, 2008, the Renton site has produced 42 percent of the world's current jetliner fleet.