An Alaska Airlines 737 at Boeing Field

Taking it to the MAX

An Alaska Airlines 737 at Boeing Field
An Alaska Airlines 737 at Boeing Field; Boeing has selected Renton as the location for the new 737 MAX factory, Photo by Jacob Hoag

The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers is scheduled to vote December 7th that will create a four year contract for Boeing workers.  The new contract will include an “annual pay raise of 2 percent and cost-of-living adjustments, an incentive program tied to bonuses of between 2 and 4 percent,” reports AIN Online.  

When Boeing announced the new 737 MAX this August, the search for the perfect location to manufacture their new airliner was narrowed down to three cities, including Renton.

The Boeing 737 was first introduced in 1967, and has dominated the commercial airplane market.  There have been eight versions since the original 737-100.

The short-range small-capacity Boeing jets have sold remarkably well since the beginning of the Jet Age.  The 737 is the best selling jet airliner in aviation history, closely followed by the Airbus A320 family. The next generation, dubbed the 737 MAX, promises to further surpass Airbus in the short-range market.

To the untrained eye, the 737 and the A320 might seem indistinguishable.  However, there are many design differences.  The new LEAP 1B engines promise to help Boeing catch up to the Airbus A320neo that outsold the 737 at this year’s Paris Airshow.

Initially, there was a big controversy surrounding this new aircraft–specifically the location where it would be manufactured.  Currently, 737s are built in Renton, and then flown out to Paine Field in Everett for final mechanical modifications.  In their August press conference, Boeing announced that they were thinking about moving the MAX factory from the Seattle area to a new location.

After Boeing unexpectedly moved the 787 line to South Carolina in 2009, the mere suggestion of another manufacturing plant location change is being taken very seriously in Northwest Washington.  Boeing is one of the largest economic powerhouses in the Seattle area.  After losing the second 787 line, losing the 737 MAX production would have severely harmed Washington State’s economy.

“Each dollar is really three or four dollars, because it gets spent three or four times,” said Aviation High School economics teacher, Dr. Michael Katims.  “Now that [the Boeing employees] just got paid they feel like they can take in a movie; they stop at Starbucks for some coffee, and then that person at Starbucks stops in somewhere and spends money, so the money just keeps moving.”

This movement of money is what doubles and triples its value.  If Boeing took away this source of money, then the flow would stop, starving other businesses that rely on Boeing employees as customers.

“It has a huge ripple effect,” said Katims.  “If you move a few thousand jobs out of state, then you’re going to move a few doctors out of state; you’re going to move a few service employees out of state; you’re going to need fewer gas stations and fewer grocery stores and dry cleaners.”

Currently, Boeing employs about 79,000 people in the state of Washington.  If these jobs moved to another state, employees would be forced to either relocate to another state or lose their jobs, forcing Washington’s unemployment rates to skyrocket.

In order to prevent such a disaster, Governor Christine Gregoire assembled a special team of city council members and attorneys to help keep Boeing a Washington company.

Taylor Washburn, a prominent attorney at Foster Pepper law firm, was selected to be the chairman of the group, dubbed “Project Pegasus.”

Washburn said that if Washington did not get the factory, the economic effects would have been “very significant if it displaced Renton–up to 20,000 jobs.”

Initially, people were worried that Renton would not have the space to accomodate the new line, but Washburn said that they “understand Renton can accommodate a larger number of 737s.”  Had there not been enough space, other options in Washington would have had to be considered.

Grant County has been campaigning to bring the factory to Moses Lake.  If it was not possible to build it in Renton, that would be another option to keep Boeing in Washington.  Washburn said that it would be possible to build it there, or at alternate sites in Washington State, “but this would be a major capital investment.”

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