Boeing makes big commitment to St. Louis; MC Industrial to oversee 367,000-square-foot composite center project

A rendering of the new composite center in St. Louis.

A rendering of the new composite center in St. Louis.

by Dan Rafter

St. Louis-based MC Industrial started the new year by landing a big project: It has been chosen to build Boeing’s 367,000-square-foot composite center on the company’s St. Louis campus.

Mc Industrial, along with its design partner Burns & McDonnell, will oversee the design and construction of the new manufacturing facility that will bring more than 700 jobs to the St. Louis area.

Tom Felton, president of MC Industrial, said that the project is good not only for his company but for the entire St. Louis region. It represents the first major production facility in St. Louis for the commercial aircraft market, Felton said.

The project, though, does come with its own challenges. For one thing, Boeing’s existing facility, located on the same campus as the new composite center, must remain operational during construction. MC Industrial, then, must make sure that its construction activities don’t interfere with Boeing’s other campus operations.

MC Industrial must design the facility with an eye to the future, too. As Felton said, the composite center must be designed so that Boeing can easily modify it to meet future manufacturing changes.

Boeing first announced in early October that it would produce parts for the 777X aircraft at the St. Louis site. This expansion, along with five new autoclaves — pressure chambers used to sterilize equipment and supplies — will allow Boeing to do this. The parts built here will support Boeing’s 777X work at the company’s composite wing center in Everett, Wash., the home base of the 777X program.

The Boeing 777X is a new twin-engine jet being manufactured by the company. Efficiency will be the big benefit of the new plane. Boeing says that it will consume 12 percent less fuel than its competitors and will boast operating costs that are 10 percent lower.

The jet has yet to earn its official name. Boeing officials say that they will formally name the new aircraft at a later date.

“Producing parts for the 777X at our St. Louis site positions us to bridge to the future as a ‘one Boeing’ site, blending commercial and defense manufacturing and design opportunities,” Bob Ciesla, vice president of Boeing military aircraft cross-enterprise design/build, told Midwest Real Estate News. “Placing this work in St. Louis optimizes resources, skills and technology across the Boeing enterprise, and creates high-technology jobs in the region.”

Construction work on the St. Louis campus is expected to wrap in 2016, with work on 777X wing and empennage parts beginning in 2017.

The new facility is an expansion of Boeing’s current tooling center in St. Louis. This facility now completes its composite work with just one autoclave. With the five new autoclaves that will be installed as part of this project, Boeing will significantly enhance its aerospace composite capability here.

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