Boeing 737 Ramp-Up Plan Adds Assembly Line In Everett, Capacity In Renton
Boeing’s plan to fulfill customer demand for its 737 MAXs by ramping up to a production rate of about 50 737s per month in two years includes both reactivating a dormant assembly line and adding a new one at a familiar location.
The company plans to start a dedicated 737 MAX line in Everett, Washington—its long-time widebody production home—by the end of 2024, Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Stan Deal told employees in a Jan. 30 internal memo obtained by Aviation Week.
The line will occupy space in Boeing’s 40-26 building that used to house 787 production before Boeing consolidated its 787 new-build work in Charleston, S.C. Recently, Boeing has used the space to conduct 787 post-production inspections and repair, but that work will be relocated, Deal wrote.
In addition to the expansion, Deal said the dormant, third 737 line in Renton, Washington—where Boeing has long produced its narrowbodies and currently cranks out 737 MAX-family variants as well as 737-based military versions such as the P-8 maritime patrol aircraft, which has its own dedicated line—will be reactivated. The Renton move firms up plans Deal first referenced during the company’s November 2022 investor day.
The company’s target of 425-450 737 deliveries in 2023 factors in monthly figures in the low-40s in the back half of the year. Some of these will come from Boeing’s stored 737 MAX inventory but ramping up new production beyond the current notional rate of 31 per month will be required as well.
Boeing has not publicly announced the next target rate, but it has generally discussed a monthly figure of 38. Reactivating the third line would help Boeing meet that target, Deal said at the investor day.
It also will help ensure the company is hitting its monthly production targets regularly—something it admits is not happening now and must happen consistently before any production-rate increases.
Adding the fourth line creates even more flexibility for Boeing to ramp up to 50 aircraft per month and beyond—its stated target for 2025-2026. Before 737 MAX production was cut in 2019 following two fatal accidents in five months, three lines were producing 52 aircraft per month and gearing up for 57.
Establishing the line in Everett creates stability for its workforce there while making use of a company asset. The Everett widebody production location has seen 787 final assembly work shifted to South Carolina, 747 production wind down, and planned 777 production rates cut back under the weight of a longer-than-expected certification program for the new 777-9.
“To be clear, we are not taking the 737 out of Renton—just adding capacity to capture customer demand, especially for the newer models like the -8200 and 737-10,” Deal wrote in the internal memo. “Given the proximity to Renton, Everett is a great fit with the availability of highly-skilled workers and factory space.”
While leveraging staff and space freed up by its shrinking widebody footprint in Everett offers benefits, it also brings logistical challenges. Everything from parts kits to large subassemblies delivered to the Renton assembly lines—including parts such as wings that Boeing makes in Renton—must be sent to Everett as well.
“This undertaking is significant,” Deal wrote in the memo. “In addition to preparing the facility, we have begun the process of notifying and preparing our suppliers, customers, unions and employees as we take the necessary steps to create a new line.”
The new “North Line” will be opened by “a small group” of experienced Renton workers, “along with some Everett teammates and some new hires,” Deal wrote.
Boeing ended 2022 with an official backlog of 3,653 737s, not including 659 orders considered at risk. Within the official figure are 3,628 737 MAXs.
The company delivered 387 737s in 2022, including 374 MAX-family variants.