Step inside Boeing’s South Carolina Dreamliner factory

Step inside Boeing’s South Carolina Dreamliner factory

For most of its history, Boeing has been synonymous with the Seattle area. Although the global aerospace company has facilities across the U.S. and abroad, it was founded in Seattle, and for most of its history, it built its commercial aircraft at two Seattle-area factories.

In 2011, Boeing opened a third commercial factory, this one in Charleston, South Carolina.

The new location came to be after Boeing purchased the South Carolina-based operations of two suppliers in 2008 and 2009: Vought Aircraft Industries and Global Aeronautica, which built components for Boeing.

Boeing absorbed both operations and combined them before opening a final 787 assembly and delivery line on the site two years later.

The Charleston site operates alongside Boeing’s Everett factory in Washington state, which produces wide-body commercial jets.

Boeing said that it needed the second assembly line in order to “expand our production capability to meet the market demand for the aeroplane” and that it chose the Charleston site due to the component work already being done on the property.

However, the announcement came during a period of turbulent relations with its Washington-based union, leading to allegations that the plane-maker was attempting to illegally circumvent the union. Boeing has since allegedly fought any effort by Charleston workers to unionize.

Boeing said in 2020 that it would consolidate 787 production in Charleston instead of splitting it between South Carolina and Washington, a move which was completed the following year.

TPG had a chance to tour the factory last December ahead of an event marking United Airlines’ new order for up to 200 aeroplanes.

Saying that Boeing makes the Dreamliners at its factory is a bit misleading because Boeing — just like Airbus, Embraer and other airframe makers — doesn’t actually manufacture much of the plane itself.

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