The Boeing Follies

The Boeing Company has come a long way since 1916, when Bill Boeing began building airplanes in his Seattle barn. Looking to the future, the company is hopeful that its 737 MAX will soon be certified to fly again. The aircraft has been grounded since March 2019, after two crashes killed 346 passengers.

Boeing has been accused of withholding information from the F.A.A. during the 737 MAX certification process and the F.A.A. accused of not carrying out its regulatory duties when it originally okayed the aircraft.

Since its beginning, Boeing has been closely identified with Seattle, even after relocating corporate headquarters to Chicago in 2001 and registering itself as a Delaware corporation. In return, the state of Washington gave the company $3.2 billion tax subsidy in 2003 and another $8.7 billion gift ten years later.
Boeing responded by opening a manufacturing plant for its 787 Dreamliner in Charlotte, South Carolina where wages are lower and there are no pesky unions to deal with. Employee turnover in SC was also higher than at its 787 plant in Everett, near Seattle.

While the 737 MAX debacle was making headlines, 787s built in South Carolina had their own problems. Boeing shipped some aircraft from Charlotte to Everett for final assembly in 2019 because of safety lapses and “shoddy production” in South Carolina. Just a month ago, eight 787 Dreamliners were taken out of service to remedy defects from the South Carolina factory.

Former CEO Harry Stonecipher had said Boeing is to be “run like a business rather than a great engineering firm.” So the company did the logical thing and announced all 787 manufacturing would be consolidated in Charlotte and Dreamliner production would be shut down in Everett.

Current CEO Stan Deal insisted that “today’s decision does not change our commitment to Washington state.”

As if Boeing’s commitment to Washington state was not already obvious.

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