The Boeing Co. is building a new manufacturing plant in St. Louis to produce composite parts for wing and tail (empennage) structures on its 777X commercial aircraft. Construction on the 367,000-sq.ft. plant should be complete in 2016, with manufacturing beginning in 2017. The jet-builder expects to employ about 700 at the new operation.
The cost of the new plant was not announced.
The 777X will be a redesigned version of the 777, the long-range, wide-body jet that is the world’s largest twin-engine aircraft. It is intended to compete with the new Airbus A350, and will be available in two models, the 777-8X and 777-9X. Boeing has reported nearly 300 orders and commitments by six airline companies, though the jets are not estimated for commercial availability until 2020.
Composites, or carbon-fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP), are made from two or more materials with different physical or chemical properties that combine to produce specific characteristics. They are produced by assembling the materials in a two-sided mold set that forms the two surfaces of the panel. The assembly is placed in an autoclave for a process that high pressure and high temperature to create the composite structure.
Boeing’s new plant in St. Louis will be an expansion a tooling center at Boeing’s Defense, Space & Security complex. According to Boeing’s release, the plant will contain six autoclaves.
Earlier this year, Boeing chose its Everett, Wash., assembly plant as the site for a new composite wing center for the 777X program. There, Boeing will fabricate and assemble the wing structures and conduct final assembly for the new jets.
“As we move forward with construction of our new center, we will significantly enhance our aerospace composite capability in St. Louis, positioning us for today’s opportunities, and tomorrow’s,” stated Bob Ciesla, v.p., Boeing Military Aircraft Cross-Enterprise Design/Build. “This is a tremendous opportunity for Boeing St. Louis and the entire region, which enables us to bridge to the future as a site with both commercial and defense capabilities.”