Questions about Boeing's new airliners are of high-interest around the globe. The crisis of faith is of particular interest in Huntsville. Boeing and North Alabama have a long-standing relationship that many people depend on for their livelihoods.
Boeing is making news because of two separate crashes of its new highly-touted 737 Max 8 planes. The latest crash Sunday in Ethiopia killed all 157 people on board. In October, another Boeing 737 Max 8 plunged into the sea and killed all 189 people on Lion Air flight 610.
There's a growing list of countries grounding the 737 Max 8. The news has the world’s attention.
Here at home, Boeing has a significant Alabama presence. Already, about 2,700 people work for Boeing in the state. The company said it expects to hire up to 400 more employees by next year. Plus, Boeing will make an additional capital investment in Alabama of $70 million.
In the Tennessee Valley, Boeing’s focus is mainly on aerospace and defense. In Decatur, Boeing helped get what is now United Launch Alliance up and running. Boeing has a share in ULA and United Space Alliance.
But, most of Boeing’s work is in Huntsville and Madison County. Boeing is working on several military projects, notably, the Patriot Advanced Capability 3 Missile Seeker, among others.
Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce underscores, “Boeing innovation in Alabama is key to our nation’s defense and space programs.”
When it comes to commercial aircraft, Boeing has a relatively small footprint in Alabama. At Redstone Gateway, a team of about 250 Boeing engineers supports several commercial aircraft. That includes the 737 Max 8, but that’s just one of twenty aircraft projects.
Boeing first made its stake in Alabama in 1962 because of the space program. That commitment remains strong. The most recent economic impact study shows Boeing contributes more than $2 billion a year to Alabama’s economy. It also supports nearly 8,400 direct and indirect jobs. The company spent an extra $749 million in Alabama. That includes $532 million to suppliers. In 2016, for example, Boeing gave nearly $1.7 million to non-profits.
The company says “Boeing is investing in the future of Alabama as a center of innovation, continuing to bring highly-skilled jobs and growth to the region.”
Long-term, Boeing’s commitment to Alabama and the state’s faith in Boeing are solid. That despite what many are hoping will be a short-term lack of confidence from travelers about Boeing’s Max 8. “I would have tried to get on a different flight.”
Besides Boeing, its commercial aviation competitor, Airbus, also has a presence in Alabama. The Airbus final assembly plant is in Mobile.