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Boeing opens facility to build commercial airplane parts

Boeing’s new facility will start production of composite parts for the 777X commercial jet in January.

The company held a ribbon cutting for a new 424,000-square-foot plant on Thursday. Eventually Boeing expects to hire about 700 employees for production on the 777X in St. Louis.

“We’re going through design now, so a lot of engineers are already here,” said Bob Ciesla, Boeing Defense, Space & Security’s vice president and program manager of the 777X Program. “Half of that [total number] is engineering, but as we ramp up in rate we’ll see a lot more production people.”

Ciesla said the first composite parts will be shipped in May. The first 777X planes are expected to be delivered in 2020.

This is the first facility Boeing has opened in St. Louis in more than a decade. It has cost about $300 million to build and outfit the plant. The composite parts are made from layering fabric, then heating it in autoclaves.

“They’re stronger but also lighter,” Ciesla said of the composite parts.

Boeing Commercial Airplanes launched the twin-aisle 777X in November 2013. About a year later the company announced about 600 parts for the commercial plane would be made in St. Louis.

Manufacturing engineer Sharon Finch came on board to Boeing straight from college in early 2015. She began work there shortly after the program got started in St. Louis.

“Our team put together the foundation of this building and a lot of my team members set the groundwork for where everything is going to be,” Finch said, “so it’s exciting to see all their hard work and my hard work go up into a building. We’re about to build the first part in the next few months.”

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon was on hand for the ribbon-cutting. He said getting commercial aircraft work at Boeing Defense, Space & Security in St. Louis provides security.


“You’ve seen the size of those autoclaves. They’re not going to move them,” Nixon said. “When they make this level of investment it means not only these 700 jobs, but more in the future.”

Boeing Defense, Space & Security, headquartered in St. Louis, has approximately 15,000 employees in the region. Several military aircraft are manufactured locally, including the F/A-18 Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, and the F-15 Eagle.

Likely sales to Kuwait and Quatar are expected to keep the F/A-18 and F-15 production lines open in St. Louis into the early 2020s, according to Boeing.

Follow Maria on Twitter: @radioaltman

Maria is the newscast, business and education editor for St. Louis Public Radio.

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